Neighbors React to Discovery of Body That’s Likely of Maddox Ritch

Arturo Kim
September 28, 2018

Gastonia police said they had searched this stretch of land many times before, but were retracing their steps because they believed Maddox could have been moving around as time passed.

The young boy went missing last Saturday after running off from his father Ian and a friend in Rankin Lake Park.

More than two dozen agencies and hundreds of officers spent six days scouring Rankin Lake Park for the child.

Both parents went before the media this week to plead for any information that would lead to the discovery of Maddox. "The investigation is ongoing", it said earlier in the day.

On September 22, Maddox took off running during a walk around the lake, a police spokeswoman said.

Maddox Ritch was last seen Saturday at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia, about 20 miles west of Charlotte. "He enjoys the outdoors, so I just wanted him to have fun", said Ian Ritch.

Ritch said neuropathy in his feet caused by diabetes makes it hard for him to run and he was unable to catch up to his son. Rich told ABC that Maddox frequently does so, but always stops and waits for him to catch up.

Ritch, who has blonde hair and blue eyes, was last seen wearing black shorts and an orange T-shirt that said "I am the man".

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Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton fought back tears and a breaking voice at a news conference Thursday to announce officials believed the body searchers found was that of Maddox Ritch. "I didn't think nothing of it and he got a little too far away from me", Ian Ritch told "Good Morning America" Wednesday.

"We still want to hear from the others", Kaplan said.

"If he's lost in the woods, he'll be able to hear those messages played, and we're hoping that he'll come to the words of his mother and his father", Federal Bureau of Investigation supervisory special agent Jason Kaplan said on Monday. Helton said that each day, separate search-and-rescue crews have scoured the ground in ATVs and searched the water by boat in an effort to locate the child. Ow i want to be just so when i die my lil boy will be the first person i see when i get into heaven.

Investigators say Maddox has autism and is nonverbal. "I've lost a lot of sleep this week worrying about Maddox". "I want to give him a big hug as soon as I see him", he added.

Carrie Ritch spoke at a press conference Tuesday, Sept. 25, visibly crying and shaking as she begged for the safe return of her son. Ritch said he is a diabetic and because he has neuropathy in his feet, he has trouble running. "Our focus is to find Maddox as quickly as possible and to bring him home". "Maddox is my whole world and my reason for living", said Maddox's mother Carrie Ritch. Ian Ritch said he thought his son would be found.

The FBI has a team that is highly specialized in searching for missing children.

Maddox's parents have encouraged anyone who may have information on the case to call the special tip line, 704-869-1075.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Ritch said: 'He likes running.

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