Body believed to be of missing North Carolina boy with autism

Larry Hoffman
September 28, 2018

From the city of Gastonia: Additional resources will be aiding in the ongoing search for 6-year-old Maddox Ritch.

Maddox, who has autism and is nonverbal, was last seen Saturday at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia, N.C., near Charlotte, where he apparently took off running and disappeared from sight, his parents later told police.

FBI Special Agent Jason Kaplan said during the same news conference that "unfortunately, it's not uncommon for special-needs children, or a boy who has autism or a girl who has autism, to get lost or be missing, so it's something we deal with unfortunately with some frequency".

The search for Maddox Ritch, the missing six-year-old boy with special needs in Gaston County, is now in its sixth day as over 330 law enforcement workers are investigating the case.

The FBI dive team was deployed Thursday to search the lake.

A body believed to be missing boy Maddox Ritch was found on Thursday, days after the 6-year-old vanished in broad daylight in a North Carolina park, city officials and the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.

Carrie Ritch, Maddox's mother, asked other parents to keep her son in their prayers.

Gastonia police say the body, believed to be Maddox Ritch, was found off Marietta Street in Gastonia. Ian Ritch said his son had run ahead of him and disappeared before he was able to catch up.

"Maddox is my whole world and my reason for living", Carrie Ritch said.

Ian Ritch said his son ran a short distance from him before he broke into a sprint.

Ritch said neuropathy in his feet caused by diabetes makes it hard for him to run and he was unable to catch up to his son. "I want to give him a big hug as soon as I see him". Continue praying for him, because I just want my baby home, please, whatever you can do.

The distraught dad and his friend searched alongside park staff members to help and after an hour dialled 911 for help.

Gastonia Fire Chief Phil Welch said the body was found in a creek, slightly more than a mile (1.6 kilometers) east of the park, by a searcher who was walking down the middle of the creek as his partners stood on the bank. The new tip line number is 704-869-1075.

Ian Ritch, Maddox's father, spoke to the media about his son's disappearance. "I've lost a lot of sleep this week worrying about Maddox". Investigators found him in a location accessible by walking a path underneath US 321, part of a future greenway that'll connect Rankin Lake Park to downtown Gastonia. He loves the park, bouncy balls and his teddy bear.

"I just want my little boy back home".

He has blonde hair and blue eyes.

The FBI previously said it had evidence Maddox was at the park Saturday, but did not specify what that evidence was. He said the water wasn't more than 3 feet (0.9 meters) deep at the spot where the body was found, adding that it's too early to say whether foul play was involved.

They now have more than 300 people working on the investigation and have received 250 leads.

Maddox is 4-feet-tall and weighs around 45 pounds. "I didn't see that kid one time". He did not talk, they said.

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