NEW YORK (AP) — The city’s medical examiner confirmed Tuesday that human remains found along the East River last week are the body of an autistic teen who vanished more than three months ago after walking out of his school in the middle of the day.

The announcement was widely expected for several days, but it still devastated the family of Avonte Oquendo, who was 14 and had a form of autism that made it impossible for him to speak.

Avonte’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, was inconsolable, said her lawyer, David Perecman.

“Now that the inevitable, unfortunately, has occurred, undoubtedly she’ll go through a metamorphosis of a sort, and I’m sure she’ll get good and angry,” he said. Perecman said the family intends to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, alleging that school officials failed to monitor the boy or call the police quickly enough when he left the school.

“There were so many things that went wrong, it befuddles the mind,” he said.

The discovery of Avonte’s partly decomposed body on the riverbank, about 11 miles from where he vanished, was a sad end to a massive citywide search that included hundreds of officers, marine units and volunteers. Missing person posters were plastered on lampposts and placed on car windshields throughout the city. Announcements were made for weeks on city subways, imploring people to contact the police if they had any information.

The medical examiner’s office used DNA tests to identify the remains discovered Thursday. Further study was needed to determine the cause and manner of death, the office said.

Avonte had been missing since Oct. 4, when he walked out of his school toward a park overlooking the river.

One investigative theory was that Avonte might have tumbled into the river near the park, though his family has said he was fearful of water. It wasn’t clear how his remains had traveled so far, but authorities noted that the East River is a tidal strait with strong currents that reverse flow many times a day.

The family first said in October that it would sue the city. At the time, 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.

Carmen Farina, the city’s newly appointed education chancellor, said she was heartbroken.

“As chancellor, I am determined that we learn every lesson we can from this terrible tragedy and do everything in our power to prevent incidents like this from ever occurring again,” she said.

The city’s law department called the boy’s death a tragedy and said its attorneys would review the lawsuit once it’s filed.

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13 thoughts on “Officials Identify Remains of Missing NYC Teen Avonte Oquendo

  1. Myra L. Porter on said:

    My daughter and I have been following this story since we heard about it on the news. You see, we have an autistic child / grandchild. When I saw this young man’s face he looked like my grandson. I pray for healing, I pray that this family comes together and stays strong. All autistic kids are Not the same, so educate yourself about this condition. My heart is broken.
    Indpls., IN

  2. It saddens me to hear of this family’s loss. My condolences go out to the family .Racen7 its ppl like u who don’t have a clue about children with special needs. Its not about the money u dumb ass. Its the fact that mostly all schools have a special education department. Those children require special attention. For a school official to have seen him before this incident happen should be held responsible. It is the schools responsibility for the safety of your child while they are at school. So before u go saying its about money ask yourself if that was your child how would u feel. I am a proud parent of an autistic child. I watch mine like a hawk but I can’t be there to watch him while he is at school. U need to be around more special needs kids or read about autism then u would learn everybody disability is not the same. Smh dumb ass ppl who know so damn much

  3. sydvixen on said:

    Being Autistic does not mean that person is oblivious to their environment, it’s the exact opposite, they are highly intellectual and are smarter than most. The problem is each one learns differently and you have to unlock the barrier, that’s the challenge because most “teaches don’t have to time to treat each child differently. This type of disorder needs One one One learning.
    As for him just walking and falling in the water, That didn’t happen he wasn’t a toddler, he knows danger.
    The police department needs to get some classes about autism before they speculate what happened. And I pray the parents know the details of the spectrum of autism.

  4. Melba Gaddis McDonald on said:

    Racen7 you are an idiot. Do you not realize this is an innocent child? You need to pray for forgiveness. This family don´t need to hear the type of stupid remarks you made. If you can´t say something to comfort them, then please shut up. The school security officer should have taken him back to his class.

  5. racen7 on said:

    Always the money. Cant they accept the fact that he walked off an fell in the water. They cant expect the school to watch him every second of every day. Hell I bet they did not watch him at home like that eather.. Give me a break..

    • Precious on said:

      Actually, the school is 100% responsible for his safety. Autistic children who are an elopement risk usually have a 1:1 aid to make sure something like this doesn’t happen.

    • Sondog on said:

      You uninformed dumbass, I guess you didn’t read the part about them finding his bodyparts In the river. Fell in the river my ass.

    • Richard on said:

      why dont you go jump in a pool with no water you moron. Its schools responsibility to monitor autistic child in custody and if you loose track of them notify authorities immediately not drag your feet and cover your arse.

    • sydvixen on said:

      Are you a complete idiot? It’s is the school’s job to keep him safe until he’s back in his parents hands.
      Educate yourself before you post publicly so you won’t look like a complete waste of space.

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