As the investigation continues into the disappearance and death of North Carolina boy Maddox Ritch, a local station took a deeper look at the area authorities found him at on Thursday.
WBTV spoke with local resident Gastonia resident Jeremy Day, who lives close to where 6-year-old Maddox’s body was found, found it “unsettling” when he learned about where the boy was discovered at. Searchers found the little boy submerged in two to three feet of water less around a mile from the Rankin Lake Park, the last place he was seen alive.
“Knowing that he was found right there is kind of unsettling,” Day told the outlet. “It is very thick down in there. Tall grass, thick brush. It is swampy, and you usually have water down there year-round,” said Day. “The brush is so thick down there it is hard for anyone to walk through there.”
“It is very thick. Tall grass, thick brush. It is swampy, and you usually have water down there year-round.”
— WBTV Ben Williamson (@benlwilliamson) September 28, 2018
Day also said, however, that a trail exists that runs from Rankin Lake Park to the area where Maddox was found.
“Yeah, it goes a pretty good way. You can go down there and pass New Hope (Road),” Day explained.
Authorities searched the area numerous times before a searcher happened upon the little boy. FBI supervisor Jason Kaplan explained in a press brief on Thursday that given how natural strainers (shrubs, leaves, debris) covered the little boy, it was “amazing” that they found him at all.
“The chief and I saw Maddox, and it is absolutely amazing that he was found. It was extremely difficult to see him even when we were standing right next to him.”
Maddox’s cause of death is unknown, pending the results from a medical examiner.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Ian Ritch, father to missing boy Maddox Ritch, 6, was watching over his son on Saturday while they were at the Rankin Lake Park. At around 1:30 p.m., Maddox ran ahead of his father, and before Ian could reach him, the boy disappeared.
“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.”
Ian said his son started running after a jogger on Saturday afternoon, which didn’t seem unusual since Maddox, who was autistic and non-verbal, frequently ran around playfully. He said his son would often run fast, then 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.”
Ian also touched on accusations from people on social media, who made comments insinuating he may have done something to his child.
“People are making it out like I did something to him. I would never hurt my little boy. I love him to death and I just want him back. I’ve been feeling the blame since this happened. I just wish I would have caught him before he got too far away from me. It’s broken my heart to think that I just let him get too far away.”
The FBI sent in a “special team” with extensive experience and training with missing children cases.
“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 earlier this week. “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.”
Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: Maddox Ritch/Handout]