NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The attorney for the family of a missing autistic boy says clothing that was found with human remains in Queens are similar to those the teen was wearing when he disappeared.
Police late Friday were trying to determine if the remains found along the East River belong to 14-year-old Avonte Oquendo. He was last seen on surveillance video leaving the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City and walking toward a park along the river on Oct. 4 of last year.
A teenager discovered the remains around 7:15 p.m. Thursday in College Point while she was taking pictures near the waterfront, CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reported.
When officers arrived, they found a torso, an arm and legs on the rocks in the area of Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place, police said. Some clothing, including jeans and a black sneaker, were also discovered.
The remains were found about 11 miles away from Avonte’s school.
Weeks ago, Avonte’s family set up a command post in Astoria to coordinate the ongoing search effort.
As CBS 2’s Tony Aiello reported, the missing boy’s father – Daniel Oquendo – drove up from Florida as soon as he heard the news. He left the family command post on Friday without talking to the media.
David Perecman, the attorney for Avonte’s family, said the sneaker, white socks and tattered denim jeans that were found are similar to those Avonte was wearing when he went missing.
“It’s a size five and a half Nike Jordan sneakers and a size 16 jeans, which are both what Avonte was wearing on the day he left, which are troubling things to hear,” he told reporters Friday at the scene in College Point.
He said he spoke to Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, around 2 a.m. Friday.
Fontaine gave a DNA sample to investigators Friday afternoon. She also gave them Avonte’s toothbrush and his birth certificate that had his baby footprint on it, Aiello reported.
Perecman said police also have Avonte’s father’s DNA on file and that the family will wait for DNA test results.
Perecman said Fontaine won’t jump to any conclusions until a positive identification is made, which may take several days.
“She’s not going to be convinced this is her son until there is something to convince her,” he said. “It’s not Avonte until it’s Avonte.”
Police boats, helicopters, detectives and water units spent the morning Friday searching for additional evidence.
NYPD divers spent long hours Friday in the chilly 38-degree water searching for the rest of the body. The divers will be back in the water Saturday searching for more remains, Aiello reported.
Investigators are careful to point out the articles of clothing that were discovered are common and can’t yet be definitively linked to Avonte.
The remains have been taken to the Queens County Morgue, where the medical examiner will determine the cause of death. Perecman said the remains were badly decomposed.
Since the teen’s disappearance in October, police, relatives and volunteers have blanketed the city with fliers and have combed through train stations, subway lines and waterways looking for Avonte.
Police also received hundreds of tips in the case, but despite a few false alarms, there has been no sign of the teen.
College Point residents said they’re sad to think the search for Avonte might end in their backyard.
“I’ve been following the story and it’s heartbreaking that it could be a possibility that it could be Avonte,” Eric Laboy told Aiello.
A reward for information leading to his safe return was last up to $95,000. A Facebook page was also set up to share information and coordinate search efforts.
In October, Avonte’s family filed a claim to sue the city and the school district for failing to properly supervise the teen. Perecman also said it took the school too long to notify the Avonte’s mother about his disappearance.
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