Maddox Ritch: Autistic boy disappears from park, still missing as FBI & NCMEC join ‘massive’ search

The FBI, along with over a dozen other law enforcement agencies have joined in to help find a little boy who disappeared from a North Carolina park on Saturday.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Maddox Ritch, a 6-year-old non-verbal autistic boy, was last seen at the Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia, with his father and an unnamed adult at around 1:30 p.m. Maddox started running, according to authorities, and the adults couldn’t reach him in time before he disappeared.

“They were walking around the lake,” Gastonia spokeswoman Rachel Bagley said during a press brief on Sunday. “They got around to the back side of the lake. He started running, according to the parents. When they started running after him, they lost sight of him.”

The FBI sent in a “special team” with extensive experience and training with missing children cases. Authorities said they are also trying to determine whether the little boy is lost or possibly abducted. At this point, there are no clear answers but police are hoping someone at the park may have saw something that could help them find Maddox.

Posted by Missing Pieces Network on Sunday, September 23, 2018


“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,” Chief Robert Helton of the Gastonia Police Department 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.”

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) also joined in the search efforts. The organization stated Maddox may be in need of medication. 

“Unfortunately it’s not uncommon for special needs children, or a boy who has autism or a girl who has autism, to get lost or be missing so it’s something we deal with, unfortunately, with some frequency so the FBI has special resources,” FBI supervisory special agent Jason Kaplan said, according to the Gaston Gazette.

Maddox is 4-feet-tall and weighs around 45 pounds. He has blonde hair, blue eyes and was last seen wearing black shorts and an orange shirt with “I’m the Man” printed on the front.

Anyone with any information on the little boy’s whereabouts should call Gastonia police at 704-866-3300.

The story is still developing. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.

[Feature Photo: Maddox Ritch/Handout]