Police believe body of missing boy found in Gastonia, North Carolina creek

A body believed to be of Maddox Ritch was found in Gastonia North Carolina

A body believed to be of Maddox Ritch was found in Gastonia North Carolina

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. Ritch's son, Maddox, who does not speak, disappeared Saturday while Ritch, his girlfriend, and the boy were Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia.

Charlotte FBI also tweeted that the body they found at around 1:00 p.m. Thursday is believed to be that of the missing Gastonia boy with special needs.

Maddox, who is autistic and does not speak, disappeared on Saturday when he ran ahead of his father at Rankin Lake Park. "I've worked here nearly three years and we see everybody come in and out of that park pretty much".

Maddox was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt with writing "I am the man" and black shorts with a white stripe.

"I feel guilt for letting him get so far ahead of me", Ian Ritch said. "He got a little too far away from me", Ian Ritch said in an interview (see video at end of this article). "I'm not eating, not sleeping, I'm just anxious about getting my little boy back". "It's been torture. I'm not eating, not sleeping".

"He initially took off just a little ways, maybe 25-30 feet from me", Ian Ritch said.

The FBI announced Tuesday that a $10,000 reward is being offered for information that helps find Maddox. Ian Ritch said he thought his son would be found. Park personnel also joined in the search but didn't see Maddox, either.

Maddox is described as four feet tall and weighing 45 pounds, and has blonde hair. "I didn't see that kid one time".

Police emphasize hundreds of people were at the park that day.

A body believed to be of Maddox Ritch was found in Gastonia, North Carolina.




Ritch said the boy looked back at him and laughed, adding that he would slow down and then speed up again.

Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton is asking people that live around the area of Rankin Lake Park to check their homes and property, including sheds and garages.

Ritch said he had his eyes on young Maddox, but the 6-year-old suddenly dropped out of view Saturday.

A little boy with autism went missing after he took a walk with his family on Saturday - and the child's father blames himself for the disappearance.

Helton said authorities would like to talk to an unidentified jogger who was in the park at the time, and to a professional photographer who witnesses said was taking photos of other children dressed in Dr. Seuss costumes.

Maddox has autism, a bio-neurological development disability that usually appears before the age of 3, and is nonverbal.

Ritch said her son "is my whole world and my reason for living".

At a news conference Tuesday, Maddox's mother, Carrie Ritch, begged anyone with information to come forward.

This special team had different sonar equipment that had been used in previous searches and they have specialized training to locate even the smallest possible piece of evidence underwater.

A part-time city worker at the park ended up calling 911 for the police to help in the search.

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