Body believed to be of missing autistic mute boy Maddox Ritch found submerged in creek
6-year-old Maddox Ritch, who had autism and limited verbal skills was last seen on Saturday at Gastonia’s Rankin Lake Park walking with his father
In a tragic turn of events in the case of a missing 6-year-old North Carolina boy named Maddox Ritch, officials found a child's body near a highway, which they believe to be of him.
On Thursday, Federal officials in Charlotte tweeted the upsetting news: "With heavy hearts, we announce a body believed to be 6-year-old Maddox Ritch was found at approximately 1 p.m. off of Marietta Street/Old Dallas Highway in Gastonia. Maddox’s parents have been notified of the discovery. The investigation is ongoing."
Maddox, who had autism and limited verbal skills, was last seen on Saturday at Gastonia’s Rankin Lake Park walking with his father and another adult. From there he took off running and since was reported missing. Several search parties took charge to search the lake, with many divers participating voluntarily, as per reports.
With heavy hearts we announce a body believed to be 6-year-old Maddox Ritch was found at approximately 1 p.m. off of Marietta Street/Old Dallas Highway in Gastonia. Maddox’s parents have been notified of the discovery. The investigation is ongoing.— FBI Charlotte (@FBICharlotte) September 27, 2018
Maddox's father Ian Ritch, who was the last person who saw him took off running behind a jogger, initially believed that the boy was just having fun around the park, reported People. Ritch later told the outlet that when he spotted Maddox running faster than usual, he sprinted to catch up but soon lost the sight of his boy. Speaking of which he said: "I was thinking he was lost in the woods, now I’m not so sure." In his interview, he also said that he lost any hope of the search parties finding his son: "They’ve been looking for days and haven’t found anything. I’m starting to worry. It’s been too long. They had so many search and rescue [teams] that they should have found him by now."
However, netizens have been finding Maddox's father's version of the story hard to believe; with many users calling out officials to back search Ritch's statement. A user tweeted: "I hope the FBI focus their attention on the father because his story just doesn't 'add up,'" while another wrote: "If a friend was there with him why didn’t the friend run after him since the dad couldn’t?"
Officials, who set a reward of $10,000 for Maddox’s recovery, claimed that both Maddox's mother and father had been very cooperative throughout the investigation.
The couple made a desperate plea to anyone with information about their son to come forward.
The body was found in Long Creek in the city of Gastonia; a mile's distance from where Maddox disappeared.
“The chief and I saw Maddox and it is absolutely amazing that he was found,” FBI agent Jason Kaplan said during a Thursday press conference, adding, “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.”
Maddox’s parents have been notified of the discovery.