The mother of Avonte Oquendo, the missing autistic teen who vanished from a Queens school three weeks ago, says her son is alive and called on the New York City Police Department to redouble its efforts to find her 14-year-old son.
Vanessa Fontaine spoke at a press conference outside Riverview School Friday.
She said that while the colder weather is making the search difficult, the family is not even close to giving up.
"The police department's been great. I can't say any more. They've been out there searching and I just want them to continue to search," Fontaine said. "Don't give up, because I'm never going to give up to look for my son, and I don't want anybody else to give up looking for him. He's still alive. He's out there."
"Yeah, from the feedback I've been getting, it encourages a lot of volunteers," said Daniel Oquendo, Avonte's father. "We have a lot of people that are talking about stepping it up this weekend, so we're OK. We're in a good place right now."
"I felt very hurt at first because I have two children," said volunteer Catherine Sarrell. "You never give up. You always have that hope."
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, under fire for remarks suggesting hope was fading, says that 80 detectives are still assigned, full-time, to the case.
He added that police have run down more than 400 of the approximately 450 leads collected thus far.
Police are also in the process of reviewing 196 pieces of video.
Relatives say Avonte cannot speak or care for himself.
There is a $90,000 reward for information leading to his safe return.
Anyone with information on the case should contact the Crime Stoppers hotline at 1-800-577-TIPS, or text CRIMES and then enter TIP577, or visit www.nypdcrimestoppers.com.