Missing boy Maddox Smith

BREAKING: Body believed to be missing boy Maddox Ritch found

North Carolina search crews found the body of a small boy on Thursday afternoon, that they believe to be missing child, Maddox Ritch.

The Gastonia Police Department reports searchers found the body at around 1 p.m., off of Marietta Street and Old Dallas Highway in Gastonia. The body will sent to a local medical examiner for official identification. Maddox’s parents have been notified.

At approximately 1 p.m. on September 27, 2018, search crews discovered a body believed to be Maddox Ritch off of…

Posted by Gastonia Police Department on Thursday, September 27, 2018

 

Authorities have scheduled a press release for 4 p.m. on Thursday and will provide additional details.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, police released the 911 call yesterday made by an employee of a North Carolina state park employee after Maddox disappeared. The worker said he never saw the boy at the park.

“I’ve worked there almost three years and we see everybody come in and out of that park pretty much. I didn’t see that kid one time,” Rankin Lake Park employee Rick Foxx said, according to CBS.

Maddox, a 6-year-old autistic boy who doesn’t speak, reportedly vanished from the Gastonia area park on Saturday. His father, Ian Ritch, who asked Foxx to call 911, claimed the boy ran ahead of him after a jogger but didn’t slow down. Ritch said he couldn’t catch up with his son before he vanished. Another adult said to be with the father and son at the time has not publicly spoken about the incident.

The FBI, however, previously stated they had evidence that led them to believe the boy was indeed at the park, but it’s unclear what the evidence is.

When CBS questioned Ritch on how a 6-year-old boy could outrun him, Ritch reportedly said he has neuropathy in his feet due to diabetes, which slows him down when running.

“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,” Ritch said.

Ian stated he was “heartbroken” over his son’s disappearance and is worried for his safety.

“These past few days have been hell for me. I’m so broken. I’m heartbroken,” Ian told People. “Every time it gets dark at night I burst into tears because I’m thinking, ‘My little boy is out there alone.’ The longer [the search is] going the harder it gets because I’m so worried. He hasn’t had anything to eat or drink.”

After Maddox started running after a jogger on Saturday afternoon, Ian said it didn’t seem unusual since Maddox frequently ran around playfully. He said his son would often run around but slow down before he got too far.

When Maddox started running faster, Ian thought he would catch up to him as he usually did, but within minutes the boy disappeared.

“I was terrified. I didn’t know which direction he went so I looked as hard as I could, I went different ways and everything. I tried to find him. I don’t know where he went. Usually when he takes off running he’ll slow down and stop for me to catch up with him. This time he never stopped.”

Maddox’s mother, Carrie Ritch, asked for prayers for her son and said she the boy is her entire world and “reason for living.”

“I would appreciate it if you were at the park Saturday and saw Maddox, to please, urgently, please, call the tip line, please,” Carrie said while reading a statement. “Continue praying for him because I just want my baby home, please. Whatever you can do.”

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.

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

[Feature Photo: Maddox Ritch/Handout]