NEW YORK (PIX11) — The family and loved ones of Avonte Oquendo are preparing for the young boy’s funeral after body parts that washed up in Queens last week were positively identified by the New York City medical examiner.
Sources told PIX11 the teen’s family is all together and “heartbroken.”
“Vanessa [Avonte’s mother] was crying when I spoke to her,” family attorney David Perecman said. “Doris, his grandmother, was already rattled, deeply rattled this morning.”
Perceman said he broke down when he got the news.
“Unfortunately the news I bring is not good news,” Perecman said at a press conference Tuesday. “After all that searching, the message I bring you from Vanessa [Avonte’s mother] is that police visited her earlier today and DNA has verified that indeed the remains that they found are that of Avonte Oquendo.”
The funeral, which will be closed to the media, is scheduled for Saturday morning in Manhattan, Perecman told PIX11.
The cause of death is unknown pending further testing. It is unclear how long it will take for test results to be returned.
A decomposed arm was discovered near Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place in College Point last Thursday by a teenage girl, who took a photo and showed her mother.
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The 14-year-old , who had autism, was last seen on surveillance video running out of his school in Long Island City on October 4.
Pereceman expressed anger at the city for allowing the teen, who was non-verbal, to simply run out an unlocked door.
“I for one am good and anger,” he told reporters. “When you look at the video tapes at what happened, the sheer chaos that went on in that school and to think they are taking children like this every single day, telling their parents that they’re safe, when indeed they’re not.”
A massive search was launched for the teen, with fliers posted in every subway station system wide and dozens of volunteers canvassing the city for the teen.
Although the search yielded many false sightings, Avonte’s family and volunteers never lost hope that the teen would be found alive.
Since the discovery of the remains, Avonte’s family has not spoken publicly.
A Manhattan funeral home has offered to pay all funeral expenses for the teen, although the family has not yet made any arrangements.
“We’re disheartened. We wanted to believe he was still out there. It’s our position now to stand behind the family even more so while they grieve,” said community advocate Tony Herbert. “We want to know how his body got there. We want to be able to educate young people on the dangers of the water.”
“He became everybody’s child,” Perecman’s wife, Penny, said. “She was such a strong woman, she held out hope and now that hope is gone.”
Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina released a statement, saying:
“Over the past several months, I have been among the countless New Yorkers who have been holding our breath in hope that Avonte Oquendo would be found unharmed. And I am among the many who are heartbroken to learn the news today.
Today our school community is in mourning. Losing a child is a parent’s worst nightmare, and I cannot imagine the grief that Avonte’s family must be going through. I extend my deepest condolences to them.
As Chancellor, I am determined that we learn every lesson we can from this terrible tragedy and do everything in our power to prevent incidents like this from ever occurring again. Let Avonte remind us how important it is that we continue to look out for one another.”
Perceman said the pending case against the city will be amended to a wrongful death lawsuit.