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Queens Chronicle

Vigil held for Avonte Oquendo as search goes on; reward now $70K

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Posted: Monday, October 14, 2013 1:43 pm | Updated: 11:33 am, Thu Oct 17, 2013.

Well more than 100 people turned out Friday for a candlelight vigil held for Avonte Oquendo, the 14-year-old boy who has been missing since he ran out of his Long Island City school a week earlier.

The reward for finding Avonte, who has severe autism, is now $70,000. Along with police, family members and volunteers are making a "frantic search" for the boy, who cannot communicate verbally and has the intelligence level of someone half his age, according to his family.

"He could be anywhere by now!" reads a flier being distributed to aid in the search. "Volunteers are desperately needed to help search for him and distribute his flier, everywhere. The search is frantic."

The fliers were handed out at the vigil, which was held in Hunters Point Park in Long Island City. Avonte's family and the other attendees held candles and prayed for his safe return.

Avonte, who lives in Rego Park, is black, 5 feet 3 inches tall and 120 pounds. He was last seen leaving the Riverview School, at 1-50 51 St. in the Hunters Point section of LIC, at 12:38 p.m. Oct. 4, and was wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers.

Anyone with information about his whereabouts is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 1 (800) 577-TIPS (8477). The public can also submit tips by logging onto nypdcrimestoppers.com, or by texting 274637 (CRIMES), then entering TIP577. All tips are strictly confidential.

Copies of the flier can be downloaded on a Facebook page reached by going to findavonte.com.

Avonte reportedly is fascinated by trains, and subway tunnels are among the top places where police are searching for him. They are also searching the East River.

MTA workers did a thorough search of tunnels, signal rooms and other parts of the system overnight Thursday into Friday and Friday into Saturday, agency spokesman Kevin Ortiz said. MTA workers are still handing out fliers and making announcements on trains, Ortiz said.

Countless other volunteers are assisting in the search, including members of the Guardian Angels organization.

Avonte's family reportedly is suing the city for letting him run out of school, but that could not be confirmed immediately.

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