Officials identify remains of missing autistic teen

By By The Associated Press

NEW YORK  — 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


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.