Although the body of missing boy Maddox Ritch was likely found in North Carolina on Thursday, authorities indicated that the investigation is hardly over. They’re still seeking a possible witness seen in a white truck on the day the boy disappeared.
The Charlotte Observer reports that the FBI, along with local law enforcement, are searching for a man spotted at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia in a white pickup truck on Saturday. He was also reportedly spotted loading a kayak at a boat ramp. On Thursday, FBI special agent Jason Kaplan said that authorities “believe he’s a witness who might have seen Maddox for the last time.”
Investigators are also searching for a possible male jogger at the park on Saturday.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, 6-year-old Maddox, who disappeared on Saturday afternoon while with his father Ian Ritch, 42, at the park, was found deceased around a mile east of his last known location. A searcher found the boy while walking down the middle of a rural area in Long Creek.
A pathway leads from Rankin State Park to Long Creek, which Maddox could have possibly walked down, according to Chief Welch of the Gastonia Fire Department. FBI Supervisory Agent Jason Kaplan added in that the boy’s body was camouflaged and “mixed in a harsh environment” of underbrush, sticks, and other natural strainers.
“The investigation is not over..It’s absolutely amazing that he was found. It was extremely difficult even when we were standing right next to him,” Kaplan said, while pleading for anyone at Rankin Lake Park over the weekend to come forward.
Kaplan also added that Maddox was found partially submerged in around two to three feet of water.
At this time, authorities cannot answer what clothing Maddox was found wearing or whether there was trauma to his body.
The park will remain closed while authorities continue to investigate.
Ian Ritch took to Facebook Thursday night, expressing his grief while defending himself against allegations that he may have been involved in his child’s death.
First i want to say thank u from the bottom of my heart to everyone who took part in searching for my sweet lil buddy. I…
“I would give anything to go back and save him. While a lot of people dont believe anything i have said in the past believe this. From this moment on for the rest of my life i will live with the guilt of not being there to save my son.”
Ian was watching over his son on Saturday while at the park with another unnamed adult. 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 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.
Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: Maddox Ritch/Handout]