Body Parts in NYC River Matched to Missing Autistic Teen

The announcement was widely expected for several days, but it still devastated the family of Avonte Oquendo

Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014  |  Updated 5:39 AM EDT
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Avonte's Family Waiting for DNA Proof

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Body parts found along the shore of the East River in Queens have been matched by DNA to Avonte Oquendo, the teen who went missing more than three months ago, according to the city's chief medical examiner.

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.

Photos and Videos

Avonte's Family Submits DNA Sample to Compare to Human Remains Found

The family of Avonte Oquendo is waiting to find out if the remains found in the East River are that of the missing autistic teenager.

Family Attorney of Missing Teen: “It’s Not Looking Great”

The lawyer for Avonte Oquendo's family cautioned that the body parts found in College Point are still being tested to see if there is a DNA link between them and the missing Queens boy. Sheldon Dutes reports
More Photos and Videos

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

The body parts were found Thursday night and then over the weekend in College Point, just southwest of the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, about 9 miles by waterway from where Avonte was last seen on Oct. 4.

The disappearance of the teen launched a search that spanned the city and extended even into the suburbs for weeks. He walked out of his school in Long Island City, near the East River, and was never seen again.

Authorities said a human arm was found by a resident Thursday night, and then more body parts by officers who responded.

Searchers also located a pair of size 5 1/2 Air Jordan sneakers and a pair of jeans matching what Avonte was wearing the day he disappeared. A pair of underwear that was found did not match the size or brand he was wearing, sources said.

The flow of the East River, which is actually a tidal strait and not a river, changes direction with the tide, so it could have flowed from nearby Avonte's school to the place where the parts were found.

Perecman said the child was last seen on surveillance video in a park right along the water. But, he said, the teen is afraid of water and "doesn't like it." The family doesn't believe he would have voluntarily crossed a shoreline barrier.

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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