Body Found Believed to Be That of Autistic Boy, 6, Who Recently Disappeared From North Carolina Park

According to the FBI the body believed to be that of autistic 6-year-old Maddox Ritch has been found near the park where he was last seen by his father.

September 27, 2018

Maddox Ritch [USA Today (screenshot)]

Maddox Ritch [USA Today (screenshot)]

By: Catherine Townsend

UPDATED September 27, 2018 3:30pm ET

Six days after having been reported missing FBI officials in Charlotte, North Carolina today released the heartbreaking news that they believe they have found the body of 6-year-old Maddox Ritch near the location where he was last seen by his father.

According to CNN Maddox's father told reporters yesterday "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."

GASTONIA, NC — The FBI has joined police in the massive search for a six-year-old boy with autism who disappeared from a park in southwest North Carolina over the weekend.

Maddox Ritch was last seen at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia, which is located about 20 miles west of Charlotte, authorities said.

The boy, who is described as nonverbal, was walking near a lake in the park at around 1:30 P.M. on Saturday with his father and one other adult when his father lost sight of him, according to reports.

"We're going to explore all possibilities, including abduction," FBI Special Agent Jason Kaplan said Sunday, "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.”

"They were walking around the lake," Rachel Bagley, Gastonia spokeswoman, told WSOC. "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."

Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton said officers were searching the lake, reviewing the park’s surveillance footage, and interviewing residents in the area for clues. Since Saturday, authorities have searched more than 1,400 acres around the park.

According to ABC News more than two dozen local and state law-enforcement agencies have joined the search so far, along with more than 100 volunteers. Police have also used divers, searcher dogs, boats, and ATVs to search the woods and the lake.

"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,” Helton said. "We know a lot of people were in the park and we have spoken to many of them, but we have not spoken to everyone. No piece of information is too small. Something you may think is insignificant could be helpful to our case."

Maddox has been described as being four feet tall and weighing 45 pounds. He has blond hair and blue eyes, and was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt with the words "I am the man" and black shorts.

Authorities have asked anyone who was in Rankin Lake Park Saturday, or who has any information about Maddox, to call the police department at (704) 869-1075.

Watch now:

Read more: ABC News, CNN

Keep Reading

Next Up

Jeremy 'Worm' Jourdain, Promising Basketball Player, Has Been Missing For 2 Years

Investigators would like for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts to check their properties and to keep an eye on the land when they are out exploring.

Missing Boy, 13, Who Ran Off When Parents Took His Cell Phone, Found Dead

Corey Brown ran away after his parents took his cellphone; he was discovered Sunday not far from home.

Missing 3-Year-Old Casey Hathaway Found Alive in North Carolina

After vanishing from his grandmother’s yard on Tuesday, Casey is reportedly healthy, smiling, and “asking to watch Netflix.”

Steven Campbell's Mother May Have Fled With Him To Mexico

On July 31, 2011, Karla Campbell allegedly took her son, Steven Campbell, away from his dad, William, in El Paso, Texas.

Casey Hathaway, Rescued 3-Year-Old Found In Woods, Says 'Friendly Bear' Kept Him Safe

Police launched a massive manhunt for Casey Hathaway including K-9 units, drones, and helicopters as well as divers.

Cops Question Two Men Last Seen With Missing Kentucky Mom Savannah Spurlock

One man’s home was also searched and a car was seized.

Father Vanishes After Leaving His New York City Home For Work

Family has been desperately searching for 30-year-old Rhony Ramos for over a week.

While Burying Her Dead Cat In Her Yard, Woman Discovers Remains Of Missing Man

On Tuesday, the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department said they were investigating Jacob Sutton-Bubeck’s death as a homicide.

Teen Once Connected to Ariel Castro Kidnappings Still Missing After Vanishing In 2007

Was Ashley Summers murdered, or did she run away to start a brand new life?