Crews Find Body Of Maddox Ritch, 6-Year-Old Boy With Autism Who Went Missing Last Week

The father of the boy laments letting him walk too far ahead of him before he started sprinting off when a jogger ran by.

Crime scene tape wrapped around two trees in a wooded area.
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The father of the boy laments letting him walk too far ahead of him before he started sprinting off when a jogger ran by.

Investigators believe they have found the body of young boy with autism, who went missing over the weekend at a Gastonia, North Carolina, park after running away from his father.

Six-year-old Maddox Ritch was with his father — Ian Ritch — and his girlfriend at Rankin Lake Park on Saturday. At one point during the day, Maddox and his father became separated, according to previous reporting from Inquisitr.

The search for the boy began that day, but he was not found. The search persisted, carried out by approximately 300 officers — including agents from the FBI — across the 240-acre-wide park, CBS News reported.

On Thursday around 1 p.m., crews discovered a body believed to be Maddox’s near Marrietta Street/Old Dallas Highway in Gastonia, according to a statement from the Gastonia Police Department.

“Maddox’s parents have been notified of the discovery by law enforcement,” the statement read. “Identification of the body will be done by the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office.”

The FBI is conducting an investigation of the boy’s disappearance and death. Rick Foxx, who works at the park and made the call to 911 about Maddox’s disappearance, expressed some skepticism.

“It didn’t look as though they [Ritch and his girlfriend] were that concerned” about Maddox’s running away, he said.

Foxx himself didn’t recall ever seeing Maddox enter the park. “I’ve worked there almost three years and we see everybody come in and out of that park pretty much. I didn’t see that kid one time,” he explained.

Ritch said that the disappearance of his son weighed heavily on him since Saturday. “I just want my little boy back,” Ritch said on Wednesday, before Maddox’s body was found. “It’s been torture. I’m not eating, not sleeping. I’m just worried about getting my little boy back.”

Ritch also implied that any doubts about his involvement in Maddox’s disappearance are misplaced, citing the fact that he took two polygraph lie detector tests with the FBI between Saturday and Wednesday.

Ritch said that his son vanished while the two were at the park, when Maddox chased a jogger and Ritch and his girlfriend lost sight of him. Maddox was about 25 to 30 feet in front of Ritch before he took off sprinting, Ritch explained, according to reporting from CNN. Ritch said he was just trying to give his son a little “leeway” during their walk around the lake in the park.

“I couldn’t catch up with him. I feel guilt for letting him get so far ahead of me before I started running after him,” Ritch added.