Body found in hunt for six-year-old boy — Maddox Ritch missing

Maddox Ritch ran off from his dad in the park

At approximately 1 p.m. on September 27, 2018, search crews discovered a body believed to be Maddox Ritch off of Marietta Street/Old Dallas Highway in Gastonia, according to Gastonia Police.

"Our community is heartbroken, our searchers, our investigators". "This is not the end we had hoped for". Gastonia SWAT teams searched the lake and nearby waterways on kayaks. Helton mentioned that the "blond-haired, blue-eyed boy" had been out early walking around, looking at turtles at Rankin Lake Park before he disappeared.

Kaplan added there were still many unanswered questions, and the public's help was needed to gather more information.

Police said they found a body around 1pm local time and they believe it to be Maddox. About 180 people had been out searching on Thursday. He was partially submerged. The area, thick with underbrush, had been searched numerous times. The medical examiner would formally identify the body. His parents were notified soon after the discovery.

FBI agent Jason Kaplan said the investigation is continuing.

"It was absolutely awesome that he was found", Kaplan said.

The area in which the body was found was thick with underbrush and was of varying depths, reaching between 2 and 3 feet, with its shore only reaching about a foot deep. His parents said Maddox loved life and the outdoors, and enjoyed walking through parks like Rankin Lake.

"Usually when he takes off running, he'll slow down and stop for me to catch up with him", Ritch said. He was with his father and another adult at a park Saturday when he reportedly ran ahead of them and didn't return.

He was about 8 metres away before he broke into a sprint, Mr Ritch said.

Ritch said he "was giving him just a little leeway, freedom" when he let him run up ahead, but he had a clear view of his son. "Now today i found out im not a dad anymore".

Ian went on to say, "Once sunday morning came thats when it startes me thinking i had something to worry about".

Maddox Ritch has not been seen since Saturday, when he ran away from his father in a park in Gastonia. After an hour, Ritch called 911, saying he delayed that call because he thought he would find his son and there was no reason to call police.

"First i want to say thank u from the bottom of my heart to everyone who took part in searching for my sweet lil buddy". He was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt featuring the phrase, "I am the man". Gastonia Police said 10 teams of 15 people, including the FBI's Evidence Response Team, searched the area near Rankin Lake Park. Ritch said he is a diabetic and because he has neuropathy in his feet, he has trouble running.

The body was found around 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27 authorities said. However, searchers also treated their efforts as if Maddox could have been on the move over the last six days.

How does Maddox's autism affect the search?

The search for Maddox, who is nonverbal due to his autism, is intensifying.

Authorities described him as being autistic.

A local lake was drained and fingertip searches done of the park.

On Thursday night, Ian Ritch, father of Maddox Ritch, made an emotional post on Facebook about his son.

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