Four weeks ago, 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo was caught on surveillance cameras running from his Long Island City school. That brief footage was the last time anyone has seen the teen with autism, as he seemingly vanished without a trace.
With lead after lead providing hope before eventually going cold, Avonte’s family and hundreds of volunteers remain strong, vowing to bring the boy home safely.
Tuesday, a photo of a boy with an uncanny resemblance to Avonte began circulating on the internet. Snapped aboard a subway by a 13-year-old boy, the photo was a lead that many have been looking for. But, like every tip before it, the boy in the photo has been confirmed not to be Avonte, breaking the hearts of the community.
“It was a little bit of hope,” Avonte’s mother Vanessa Fontaine said of the PIX11 Morning News. “But I wasn’t quite sure that was my son.” The child in the photo has been identified, and met with police along with his mother.
The family’s lawyer, David Perecman said his “heart jumped” when he heard about the picture. Percman said the child who took the photo meant well.
Fontaine said she was not happy when the NYPD decided that manpower searching for Avonte had to be reduced. “I can’t give up. That’s my child. I wouldn’t want anyone else to give up on their child either,” Fontaine said.
I break down, but then I get right back up,” Fontaine continued.
As for what’s next in the search for Avonte, Perecman said the police are continuing to search and more and more of the community is coming together to find the teen.
Perecman said legal action has already begun against the school and that he is currently gathering more information on what happened the day Avonte went missing.
Avonte Oquendo went missing October 4. If you have any information on his whereabouts, please call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.