For weeks, the two men and their family and friends followed a trail that kept coming up frustratingly empty.
“Danny would sleep in his car. I was climbing fences, and under bridges and in abandoned buildings, and still nothing,” Conti said.
When Conti, whose wife died from cancer and is now a single father to an autistic son, got the phone call telling him that Avonte's body had been found, he broke down.
“I believed I was going to find him. And I didn't find him in time and I didn't find him alive. There was a lot of pain,” he said. “I broke down and said, 'He didn't hurt nobody, he didn't hurt nobody.'”
The loss of his nephew is still a fresh wound for him and his family, and to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Avonte's disappearance, Conti released a music video on YouTube on Friday, October 3.
“I started hearing a lot from the people who were out there looking with us and they were feeling down, and that motivated me,” Conti said. “I wanted to give them something. I was just content with the song, but I wanted something to give to them for their support.”
Conti said he hopes Avonte's disappearance will help bring the need for sensitivity training and awareness of autism spectrum disorder to the forefront so that no one else has to suffer as his family has.
Already, the video, which features Conti's son Gavin in several scenes, has earned him thanks from several parents who have children with autism.
“Us doing this and bringing it to the forefront provides them some comfort,” he said.