MALVERNE, N.Y.(CBSNewYork) —  A teenager with autism who went missing on Long Island was found in a backyard after spending the night in the freezing cold.

Police say 17-year-old Joseph “Michael” Barbella was at Malverne’s San-Dee Lanes bowling alley with his mother around 5 p.m. Monday when he was startled by a loud noise and wandered off.

He’s known to hide, so the community spent all night into the early morning hours looking for the teen with no luck.

Neighbors were asked to check under cars or in unlocked sheds or garages because Barbella is known to hide in such places. Police credit social media in the successful search.

Barbara McDermott immediately called 911 after seeing Barbella’s shirt and jacket in her yard on McIntosh Court, about a mile away from the bowling alley.

“When I saw the picture that was on Facebook, I realize wow these are his clothes,” she told CBS2’s Erin Logan.

It was in Nick Giarusso’s backyard on McIntosh Court where canine MTA Officer Doug Joseph found the teen around 8 a.m. Tuesday morning.


“I just so happened to to poke my head over the fence and saw him,” Joseph said. “He looked at me, he was obviously awake and alert but he didn’t say anything to me.”

When Giarusso woke up, he heard a lot of commotion. He looked out the window and saw the teenager in his yard with the police.

“It was amazing,” he said.

McDermott says she ran to her home to grab a blanket for Barbella. She also threw in a bowl of Cheerios for good measure.

This is not the first time the Barbella family has been left worried while their son wandered off. Last year, he was rattled during the height of a nor’easter as wind and rain came down. He was found hiding in the shed of a Hempstead town employee.

“The community has shown a lot of love and support and we really appreciate it,” Barbella’s mom Joanne said. As for Joseph, he’s expected home from the hospital some time Wednesday.