"I wonder if it were more frequent we would become more immune to it," Retta said, suggesting that New Yorkers are aware of Avonte because the search efforts have been so publicized.
The reward for the safe return of Avonte grew this week to $77,500, as divers joined an ever growing number of police and rescue officers from several states who have been searching for him nonstop for more than a week.
Avonte's mother, Vanessa Fontaine, told CNN's "Piers Morgan Live" on Thursday that she believes her son is still alive and that someone is probably holding him.
"My message to my son is that I love him and we're going to find him. You'll come home to your family. And for anyone who has him, please be kind and to let him go," she said.
Kelly said he is not holding the school safety officer who was on duty when the teen ran out of the Queens high school responsible for the boy's disappearance.
When Avonte approached the front door of his school the day he disappeared, the safety agent told him to go back upstairs, Kelly said at a news conference on Wednesday. Surveillance video then showed Avonte turning and going down another hallway, and exiting the building from a side door, he said.
Surveillance video provided by the police department shows that no supervisor or monitor stopped the 14-year-old when he ran out.
"Even though he's 14, it shouldn't matter. No one should be, you know, allowed to run around the hallways in school. And that security guard should have questioned him," Fontaine said.
David Perecman, the Oquendo family's attorney, said it took school officials at least 45 minutes to call police after Avonte left.
"I don't understand how this happens to a special needs child unless there is something in there that failed the family," he told "Piers Morgan Live" on Thursday.
The New York City Department of Education issued a statement saying it is working closely with police. The school is not commenting.
The Oquendo family filed a "notice of claim" on October 9, said Perecman, marking the first step of a lawsuit against the city of New York. He declined to give further information about the claim.
Police said Avonte was last seen wearing a gray striped shirt, black jeans and black sneakers. He is 5 feet, 3 inches tall and weighs 125 pounds.
Anyone with information about Avonte is asked to contact the NYPD's Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS. The public can also submit tips at the Crime Stoppers website,nypdcrimestoppers.com or can text to 274637 (CRIMES), then enter TIP577.