The mother of an autistic Rego Park teenager who has been missing since early October said she believes her son is alive and called on the city’s Police Department to redouble its efforts to find him, NY 1 reported.
Avonte Oquendo, 14, was last spotted on Oct. 4 after leaving the Riverview School in Long Island City. The autistic youth cannot communicate verbally.
Last week, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said that the department would likely have to make “adjustments” in its search for the teenager.
But Vanessa Fontaine, Oquendo’s mother, said during a press conference on Friday that the family had no intention of giving up the search and called on the NYPD to do the same, NY 1 reported.
“The police department’s been great,” she said. “I can’t say any more. They’ve been out there searching and I just want them to continue to search. Don’t give up because I’m never going to give up to look for my son and I don’t want anybody else to give up looking for him. He’s still alive. He’s out there.”
Kelly said last week that 80 detectives were still assigned to the case and that police have run down more than 400 of an estimated 450 leads so far.
Currently, there is a $90,000 reward for information leading to the youth’s safe return.
Oquendo is five-feet-three-inches and 125 pounds. He was last seen wearing a grey striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers.
The teen’s family has filed a claim to sue the city and school on the grounds that the teen was not properly supervised.
The family has set up a search base on 51st Avenue and Center Boulevard in Long Island City.
Anyone with information on the case should contact the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers hotline at 800-577-TIPS.