Search on for missing teen with autism in Malverne, police say

Joseph ‘Michael’ Barbella, 17, was last seen at the corner of Malverne and Hempstead avenues in Malverne, police said. Photo Credit: Joanne Barbella

Malverne police mounted a search Monday night for an autistic teenager who wandered off from a local bowling alley shortly before sunset.

Joseph “Michael” Barbella, 17, lives in Franklin Square but was visiting the San-Dee Lanes on Francis Street when he wandered off at about 5 p.m., police said.

Barbella has brown hair, is 5 feet, 7 inches tall, weighs 155 pounds and was last seen about three blocks away at Malverne Avenue and King Street, according to a Facebook posting from Malverne Police Chief John Aresta. The teenager was last seen wearing a black sweatshirt with white writing, he said.

The teenager is known to hide under cars or in unlocked sheds or garages, the chief said in the post.

His parents were with Malverne police Monday night as an air and ground search continued. Police had initiated robocalls about the missing teenager and a Silver Alert, along with notifying other police jurisdictions.

Aresta asked anyone who sees the teenager to call 911. The chief’s post, along with the teenager’s photo, had been shared more than 1,800 times in three hours Monday night on an “I Love Malverne” Facebook page.

“I’ll keep my eyes peeled, I’m gonna check my yard and shed now, my mother is walking the dog so she’ll keep her eyes peeled as well,” one man posted.

The chief’s plea for help prompted residents to begin their own searches and to ask friends and neighbors for help.

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“Need to check the entire length of the creek by foot,” another man wrote. “Could be hiding under one of the bridges. Helicopter would not be able to see under thick brush and bridges.”

Another concerned citizen asked, “Is there any special music he likes that we can play in car radios as we drive around?”

Several local residents praised the police department, with one woman writing, “MPD just came in my yard [with] a German Shepherd checked my whole yard and garage. The best town ever. I am proud of our police.”

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