NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — A substantial reward is now being offered for the safe return of a 14-year-old autistic boy from Queens who has been missing for a week.
A 24-hour command center has been set near the Center Boulevard School in Long Island City where Avonte Oquendo was last seen. The teen was spotted on surveillance video leaving the school on Oct. 4.
Avonte is 5-foot-3 and weighs 125 pounds. He was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black shoes.
“If you see him, please, please, call 911 or take him to a police station,” his mother, Vanessa Fontaine, said earlier this week.
Anyone with information is asked to contact NYPD Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS, visit the Crime Stoppers website or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) and enter TIP577.
Autism Speaks announced Friday that it has increased the reward from $50,000 to $70,000.
“When your child is somewhere and you don’t know I can’t even sleep. It feels like it’s not fair for me to be sleeping In a nice warm bed when my son could be out here,” Daniel Oquendo, the missing boy’s father, told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin on Friday night.
A vigil was held Friday evening as family members held out hope that Avonte would be found safe, 1010 WINS’ Sonia Rincon reported.
“There are so many people who understand what a difficult time this is and how important it is to try to find Avonte as soon as possible for his safe return,” Lisa Goring, vice president of family services at Autism Speaks, told 1010 WINS.
As for the family, they are trying to stay strong, CBS 2’s John Slattery reported.
“My hope has never been waning. We think he’s gonna be all right. Stay positive. It will all work out,” Daniel Oquendo said.