FBI joins desperate search for missing six-year-old autistic and mute boy who went missing from park

Maddox Ritch went missing at around 1:30 pm on Saturday afternoon from Rankin Lake Park, North Carolina

                            FBI joins desperate search for missing six-year-old autistic and mute boy who went missing from park

The FBI will be assisting in the search for missing six-year-old Maddox Ritch who was last seen on Saturday afternoon at a park in Gastonia, North Carolina. His father says he lost sight of his son at around 1:30 pm that afternoon and, despite the assistance of over 100 volunteers in the subsequent search, Maddox has not been seen since.

In a tweet, FBI Charlotte revealed that they were helping in the case. "More than 2 dozen agencies are helping @GPDNC search for Maddox Ritch," they wrote. "You can help by providing information, please no rumors or speculation. It's important we all focus on finding Maddox. If you were in Rankin Lake Park Saturday, call 704-869-1075. #FindMaddox."

Newsweek quoted Gastonia Police spokeswoman Rachel Bagley commenting on the incident describing how father and son were walking around Rankin Lake Park when Maddox disappeared, "They got around to the back side of the lake. He started running, according to the parents, and when they started running after him, they lost sight of him, and no one has seen him ever since."

In a post on Facebook, the department described Maddox as having blonde hair and blue eyes, putting his height and weight at 4 ft and 45 lbs respectively. The six-year-old was reportedly last seen wearing an orange t-shirt with the words, "I am the man," and black shorts. He is also autistic and non-verbal.

Currently, more than two dozen search and rescue and emergency management teams have joined the search for Maddox. The teams are said to be searching the lake and surrounding areas once again as well as reviewing videos from surveillance cameras at the park, nearby homes, and businesses. The Charlotte Fire Department is also assisting by sending out teams to search the water in the park. 

The efforts have meant that around 100-125 people have searched more than 1,400 acres in and around the Rankin Lake Park area. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has even sent its helicopter to assist efforts through aerial searches, using infrared technology once it got dark outside. The search was set to continue overnight, with search and rescue crews patrolling areas of the park on foot as well as on an all-terrain vehicle.

Speaking to WSOC TV, Special Agent Jason Kaplan did not rule out the possibility that this may have been a kidnapping. "We're going to explore all possibilities, including abduction, but we're also going to make sure we search every inch of land around here to make sure that he's not simply lost," he said.

Gastonia police chief Robert Helton held a press conference on Sunday afternoon to call on the public to provide information however seemingly irrelevant. "If you were at Rankin Lake Park on Saturday and saw Maddox or took video or photos of their outing at the park, call us," he said.