Federal Bureau of Investigation finds body, believed to be missing NC boy

Geraldine Edwards
September 28, 2018

Last week, Ian Ritch and another adult were visiting the Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia, North Carolina with Maddox.

The FBI in Charlotte said Thursday, "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 Highways in Gastonia".

His parents have been notified, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.

Ritch said he has diabetes and neuropathy in his feet, which causes a tingling feeling or numbness, and has some trouble running.

Mother Carrie Ritch issued a tearful plea Tuesday for help finding the special needs boy.

He provides the boy's description and said the boy had been missing for about an hour. He was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt that read, "I am the man", the poster said.

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"I felt like we could've found him and there was no reason to call the police until that time period".

The FBI previously said it had evidence Maddox was at the park Saturday, but did not specify what that evidence was.

"I just want my little boy back home".

During a news conference on Thursday afternoon, Gastonia Fire Chief Phil Welch said the area where the body was found had been searched numerous times by drone, ATV and foot patrol. In the call, he told dispatchers that the child had last been seen near a pier on the lake, of which there are two.

Maddox has autism, a bio-neurological development disability that usually appears before the age of 3, and is nonverbal. Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton said authorities were following more than 150 leads in the case over 75 "agonizing" hours.

The appeal for potential witnesses came as the FBI's Underwater Search and Evidence Response Team searched the lake Wednesday with sonar and agents trained "to locate even the smallest possible piece of evidence underwater", Gastonia police said in a statement.

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"He likes running", Ian Ritch said. "I feel guilt for letting him get so far ahead of me before I started running after him", Ritch told reporters on Wednesday.

Because Maddox may not respond to others, police are playing recorded messages from his parents in an attempt to lure him towards them. The boy disappeared Saturday as he walked with his father at Rankin Lake Park. He said once he couldn't see his son, he got scared. "He got out of my view, and that is whenever I never seen him again [sic]".

"I could see him until a certain point", his father told Good Morning America. They did talk to the "professional photographer" who was there taking photos of children in costumes.

He has blonde hair and blue eyes. There were a lot of children in the park Saturday, including some other little blond-haired boys wearing orange shirts, but we need to know if you saw our blond-haired boy with the orange shirt.

Police have also expanded their search from the park to include a nearby landfill.

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading directly to the location of 6-year-old Maddox Scott Ritch.

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