Avonte’s family still in the dark after medical examiner’s report

Avonte’s family still in the dark after medical examiner’s report
Photo courtesy NYPD
By Alex Robinson

Avonte Oquendo’s family did not receive the kind of closure they were hoping to get this week when the medical examiner concluded the autistic teen’s cause of death could not be determined.

The boy’s mother, Vanessa Fontaine, reacted with mixed emotions as the mystery surrounding her son’s disappearance remained unresolved, said the family’s lawyer David Perecman.

“It would have been horrible to know that there was clear evidence of trauma. On the other hand, it leaves so many questions open beyond that that are unanswered,” Perecman told reporters at his Manhattan office Thursday afternoon. “I don’t know if they’ll ever get the type of closure they really want.”

The 14-year-old boy’s remains were found on the College Point shore in January after he had disappeared from his Long Island City school three months earlier.

The city medical examiner’s office was unable to determine the cause and manner of death because they did not find any lung tissue, the lawyer said. Without the lungs, it could not be determined whether Avonte drowned or if he was already dead when his body entered the water.

It also could not be determined how long Avonte’s body was in the river before it was found.

“There were no signs of trauma on the body other than some scraping marks [the medical examiner] determined were post mortem,” Perecman said.

The family still plans to launch a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the Department of Education for failing to prevent Avonte’s disappearance, Perecman said.

After Avonte’s remains were found, Fontaine filed papers challenging the NYPD’s refusal to release information about its investigation into his disappearance. Perecman said the Police Department responded to her challenge by saying it was waiting for the medical examiner’s report before making the information available to the family.

The lawyer said Fontaine has not yet received any documents from the NYPD that she hopes might shed some light on what happened to Avonte.

“She would love to find out this was all a big mistake and it wasn’t really her son,” Perecman said.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.