NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A family’s worst fears have been realized.
The remains discovered washed up along the East River in College Point, Queens last week are a match for missing autistic teenage Avonte Oquendo, the medical examiner’s office said Tuesday afternoon.
The ME’s office was still working to determine the cause and manner of death.
Oquendo, 14, was last seen leaving his Long Island City school on Oct. 4. He suffered a severe form of autism and was unable to communicate verbally.
An attorney for Avonte’s family last week said the remains that were found included the same sneaker and black jeans the teen was seen in before he disappeared.
Remains were first found on Thursday night, including “a size five-and-a-half Nike Jordan sneakers and size 16 jeans which are both what Avonte was wearing on the day which he left,” David Perecman said.
But, he added, Avonte’s mother was awaiting DNA test results before jumping to conclusions.
More remains were discovered by NYPD divers over the weekend.
Perecman spoke out on behalf of the Oquendo family Tuesday afternoon, WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported.
The family attorney said Avonte’s mother, who had been stoic all along, broke down when she got the news.
“I am sure she’ll get good and angry. I can tell you because I am not this child’s parent, I for one am good and angry,” said Perecman.
Avonte’s family has filed a notice of claim saying they planned to sue the city, arguing that school officials allowed him to walk out of the building and waited too long to notify police that he was missing. City authorities had defended the school safety officer who last saw the boy, saying she told him to go back to his classroom and he left the hallway.
The lawsuit will now be for wrongful death, Silverman reported.
“I am convinced in my heart of hearts had some of this cascade of errors not occurred that the police would have been called, they would have went outside and they would have found Avonte and he’d be home right now. And he’d be wearing his Air Jordans and they wouldn’t have been found in a river,” Perecman said Tuesday afternoon. “There were so many things that went wrong. It befuddles the mind.”
The city’s law department has said the case is “distressing.”
The remains were given priority DNA testing. Avonte’s mother gave investigators a DNA sample, along with Avonte’s toothbrush and his baby footprint to help determine if the remains were a match.
The teen’s disappearance sparked a massive citywide search effort that included hundreds of officers, marine units and volunteers.
Missing person posters were plastered on lampposts, in subway stations and placed on car windshields throughout the city.
Avonte was fascinated with the subway system and Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials made announcements on trains for weeks asking for help finding him. Police checked every subway station and tunnel.
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