Search resumes after remains found that could belong to Avonte Oquendo

Police divers continue to search the East River

Police divers continue to search the East River in Queens after the discovery of human remains that could belong to Avonte Oquendo, the autistic teen who has been missing since October. (Jan. 18, 2014) (Credit: Steven Sunshine)

Police continued to search the East River in Queens on Saturday morning after the discovery of human remains there Thursday that could belong to Avonte Oquendo, the autistic teen who has been missing since October.

NYPD divers were in the water off College Point as early as 8 a.m. Saturday, the second day of the search that resumed this week after body parts were found along the shoreline just west of the Whitestone Bridge.

Oquendo, 14, of Rego Park, was last seen Oct. 4, when he exited his Long Island City school. His family awaits DNA analysis on the recovered remains to definitively link them to the missing teen.

"It's not Avonte until the DNA evidence comes in and says it is," the family's lawyer, David H. Perecman, told a crowd gathered Saturday for a political event at the Rev. Al Sharpton's office in Harlem.

"On the other hand, it's not looking great," Perecman said.

The attorney said Oquendo's mother gave investigators his toothbrush, a copy of his birth certificate with his footprint, and a sample of her DNA. The toothbrush may provide a sample of the teen's DNA to compare with his mother's genetic profile, Perecman said.

Police said that clothing found on the remains -- which include a left arm and a torso with legs from the waist down -- appears "similar" to that worn by Oquendo when he went missing from the Center Boulevard School on 51st Avenue in Long Island City.

Perecman said the Old Navy jeans found on the torso could have been the same as those worn by Oquendo when he went missing, and that an Old Navy shirt found with the body parts appears to be the same kind he wore.

Perecman said the feet of the remains were clad in tube socks and Nike Air Jordan sneakers, similar to what Oquendo wore, and they may have protected the feet from decomposition, which may allow experts to compare Oquendo's baby footprints with those of the body.

It will take a week for the DNA analysis by the city medical examiner to determine whether the human body parts found are a genetic match with Oquendo and his mother, Perecman said.

The remains were recovered by officers from the 109th Precinct after the discovery was reported in a 911 call at 7:16 p.m. Thursday.

A 14-year-old girl trying to take a photograph near the water's edge spotted the remains along the shore near Powell Cove Boulevard and Endeavor Place in College Point, police said.

Investigators will attempt to match the recovered remains to all missing persons cases, police said.With Anthony M. DeStefano,

Darran Simon and John Valenti

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