On Oct. 31 CBS News reports that a photo taken on a camera phone of a boy on a New York City subway was not the missing Avonte Oquendo. The photo shows a side view of a teen sitting on the subway. The photographer of the photo, a 13-year-old boy said that when he attempted to get him to face forward, or engage him in conversation, he didn't speak, leading the teen to further think that the boy on the subway could be the missing teen that has been described as non-verbal and autistic.
Avonte was last seen Oct. 4 on surveillance cameras as he was leaving his school, without his aide, on Oct. 4. Investigators tracked down the teen and confirmed that he was not the missing teen. Vanessa Fontaine, Avonte's mother, says that she won't lose hope. She is still confident that Avonte is out there and alive. So far, investigators have followed over 500 dead-end leads. The reward for finding Avonte alive and well has been increased to $95,000.
As the mother of an autistic child, I see a lot of discrepancies in this story. It is unnerving to know that a security guard watched the child leave, knowing that he had a full time aide and didn't stop him or report it for over an hour. Furthermore, it seems equally as suspicious, if not more so, that the aide left the child alone. Wandering isn't uncommon in autistic people. The sad and unfortunate statistic about an autistic child's wandering is that roughly 20% of them go to water, where some of them unintentionally end up drowning.
Anyone with information or a lead on Avonte Oquendo's disappearance should call NYPD Crime Stoppers at 800-577-TIPS or text tips to 274637 (CRIMES) and enter TIP577.