Missing Franklin Square autistic teen found in Malverne


Joseph Barbella, an autistic 17-year-old from Franklin Square went missing on Feb. 12 in the afternoon around 5 after he left the San-Dee Lanes bowling alley in Malverne, according to Nassau County police. Search parties comprising police officials and local residents scoured the surrounding neighborhood afterward for a nightlong search, and he was found by Feb. 13 in the morning, in the backyard of a house on Mcintosh Court.

“It was just amazing to [see] the outpouring of love that came out last night and this morning to find Joseph,” said Malverne Mayor Patti Ann McDonald at a news conference on Feb. 13 at the Malverne police headquarters. “It was just truly remarkable.”

The homeowner who saw Barbella in her backyard called 911 and shortly after, the Malverne Police Department, along with the MTA Police K-9 Unit had arrived.

“As we were doing our initial survey, I just happened to be the one to poke my head over the fence and saw him,” said Douglas Joseph, a K-9 unit officer. “He was down to a tank top, so he was really, really cold.”

Over 120 residents were a part of the search party, according to Malverne Police Department Chief John Aresta.

“We were able to utilize them by teaming them up with police officers and fire department personnel, and they were able to break up into four-, six- or eight-person search teams,” Aresta said.

Aresta posted a notice about the missing teen on Facebook, and it was shared over 6,000 times.

“We’ve always been a very tight-knit community,” he said. “I’ve never seen a village come together like we do in times of trouble, and in times of celebration. In this village, everybody’s looking to help.”

“I knew how special Malverne is,” McDonald added, “and last night proved it even more.”

Aresta also said that the among the people who took part in searching for the missing teen, McDonald and Town Supervisor Laura Gillen — who was on her way to an event when she heard about the missing teen — put their “boots on the ground” and joined the search party.

“I’m going to give [Gillen] an application in case this politics thing doesn’t work out,” Aresta said jokingly. “This is where government all comes together for the common good.”

Barbella was taken to the Nassau University Medical Center and is in “excellent condition”, Aresta said, and that he did not suffer from hypothermia. Gillen said she visited Barbella at the hospital, and he told her that next time he goes bowling, he won’t leave by himself, and he said he would show Gillen some of his bowling skills as well.