NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It’s been nearly three months since Avonte Oquendo went missing, but his family still has hope the autistic teen will be found.
CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell spoke with his mother on Friday as the family braces for the possibility of Christmas without him.
He’s been missing 77 days, or 1,800 hours, or more than 100,000 minutes. But no matter how it is counted, to Oquendo’s mother the countless moments seem like eternity since she last saw her son.
But she’s every bit as determined to find him as she was that October day that he went missing, walking out of his Long Island City school.
“I can’t give up that hope. What mom would?” Vanessa Fontaine said.
In the days and weeks after the 14-year-old severely autistic boy went missing it seemed like the entire city was in search mode. On Friday, many of the fliers they posted appeared tattered and frayed.
Volunteers have been working out of a rented Astoria storefront, refocusing their efforts to find a teen that is unable to care for himself.
The search is being led by Fontaine, who’s taken leave from work. She said she’s bracing for the likelihood of this first Christmas without him.
“I’m not putting up a tree until my son is home. How can I celebrate? He’s not there,” Fontaine said.
NYPD investigators said they have acted on more than 400 tips, all of them turning up empty.
“I think, this is my theory, not anyone else’s, that someone has my son,” Fontaine said.
And while the search by police certainly has been scaled down, almost every single day, a group mobilizes near Avonte’s school searching for clues.
“I’ve heard a lot of recordings over the subway, even, in different subways in Manhattan,” said Hannah Roos, of Astoria.
“Hopefully, especially with incentive, everybody has got it in the forefront of their minds,” added Brittany Polk, of Astoria.
And that’s the goal of Avonte’s mom and these volunteers.
“I’m hoping that we’ll get a call saying, ‘we’ve found him.’ (I’m) looking for a miracle,” Fontaine said.
She’s looking for a Christmas miracle – clinging to hope and the belief that anything is possible.
A $95,000 reward is being offered for any information leading to Avonte’s safe return.
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