The case of missing teenager Avonte Oquendo has reached a tragic conclusion. The 14-year-old boy, who suffered from severe autism, wandered away from his school in Long Island City, NY, last October. Oquendo's disappearance prompted a massive search effort, but unfortunately, it was a futile one: earlier today, officials announced that human remains found on a beach are indeed those of Oquendo.
Those conclusions were reached using DNA analysis, with investigators relying on a toothbrush and hair sample provided by Oquendo's family to conduct the tests. The remains in question (including two legs, an arm, and part of a skull) were found earlier this month, along with scraps of clothing that matched the description of what Oquendo was wearing when he went missing. The cause of his death has yet to be confirmed.
Police and volunteers resorted to unconventional tactics
Sadly, efforts to locate Oquendo stumped law enforcement from the get-go. As The Verge reported in October, many of the traits that characterize autism also increase the likelihood that children with autism will wander off and go missing — and often make them tougher to find when they do. In Oquendo's case, police and volunteers resorted to unconventional tactics during the search: in addition to posting flyers and scouring transit facilities, they played a recording of his mother's voice from a van that drove throughout New York. "We worry about this kind of situation all the time," Dr. Gary Goldstein, chair of the Autism Speaks scientific advisory committee and president of the Kennedy Krieger Institute, told The Verge. "It happens far too often in this particular community."