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NYC police losing hope of finding missing teen who has autism

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By Julie Cannold

 (CNN) — After three weeks of scouring New York City for a 14-year-old boy with autism who ran away from school, police said Friday they have little expectation of finding him alive.

Sniffer dogs, video cameras, a search of the sewer system, missing-persons posters and fliers filling the streets, subway alerts and messages in city newspapers, and divers with sonar — none of it has led officers to Avonte Oquendo.

“Obviously we have devoted a tremendous amount of resources to the search,” Police Commissioner Ray Kelly told CNN affiliate WABC. “Unfortunately, we are not hopeful that we’re going to find this young man alive, but we are continuing our search.”


Avonte was last seen on surveillance video running out of Center Boulevard School in Long Island City on the afternoon of October 4. Three hours later, bloodhounds traced his scent to a marsh near his school, but lost the trail, a source close to the investigation said.

An hour later, the bloodhounds picked up his scent again, this time at a nearby subway station, the source said.

Avonte is fascinated by trains, his family has said. The New York Police Department has focused its search on rail yards, train stations, tracks and tunnels.

All 468 New York City subway stations have been searched, and aviation, harbor and canine units have periodically helped, the NYPD said. Announcements have been made in subway stations urging commuters to keep an eye out for the missing boy.

A mother’s worries

The boy’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, told CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live” last week that she believed her son was alive and that someone may have been holding him.

“My message to my son is that I love him, and we’re going to find him,” she said. “You’ll come home to your family. And for anyone who has him, please be kind and to let him go.”

A reward of $77,500 has been offered for his safe return.

Police said Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 125 pounds.

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