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.

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Read more: ABC News, CNN

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