The search for a young autistic boy that went missing recently at a North Carolina park has ended in tragedy. After six days of desperately searching for 6-year-old Maddox Ritch, local authorities found a body on Thursday. It is believed to be that of the missing child.
Gastonia police have confirmed that around 1 P.m. local time, a body was found in a nearby creek, approximately one mile from where young Maddox went missing. The child’s parents, of course, have been notified and the body will be identified by the local medical examiner’s office. FBI agent Jason Kaplan, however, has already stated that it’s “reasonable to say” the body belonged to Maddox.
During a press conference, Kaplan also noted “how camouflaged” the boy’s body had been.
“The chief and I saw Maddox and it is absolutely amazing that he was found,” said Kaplan. “It was extremely difficult to see him even when we were standing right next to him. He was in the creek, in water. Partially underwater.”
At a press conference Wednesday, the boy’s father, Ian Ritch, said that he had taken his son to local park. It was there, on Saturday, September 22, that the young boy allegedly took off running.
“A jogger passed by and as he was jogging past us. That’s when Maddox started to jog out behind him,” Ritch explained. “We got so far, he took off from me, running.”
Ritch said that he could not keep up with Maddox, adding that he also felt guilt for letting him run ahead. Later, he also claimed that diabetic neuropathy in his feet made it difficult for him to run.
“I thought he might have got lost in the woods,” Ritch said. “After all this time, it’s giving me doubts. It makes me wonder if somebody got him in the parking lot.”
According to Kaplan, Foul play has not been ruled out, and authorities are still investigating the events that led to his disappearance and death.
“We still want to hear from the people who were in the park that day,” said Kaplan.