Maddox Ritch

Maddox Ritch: Funeral, memorial services scheduled for young autistic boy who vanished from park

Funeral services have been set for an autistic North Carolina boy who vanished from a park in late September, later found deceased around a mile away from his last known location.

The obituary for 6-year-old Maddox Ritch states public visitation for the little boy will be held at the Raymer-Kepner Funeral Home Huntersville, North Carolina, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.on Thursday, followed by a private burial on Friday.

“Maddox was a sweet and loving little boy who was full of laughter,” the obituary read. “He loved Paw Patrol, his Teddy, playing with his bouncy balls, but above all he loved his mom and dad the most.”

As CrimeOnline previously reported, Maddox’s father, 42-year-old Ian Ritch was watching over his son on September 22 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.

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.

“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.”

A searcher found Maddox’s lifeless body submerged in around two to three feet of water in Long Creek on Thursday afternoon, around a mile east of his last known location.

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.

At this time, authorities cannot answer what clothing Maddox was found wearing or whether there was trauma to his body. The official cause of death is pending autopsy results.

[Feature Photo: Maddox Ritch/Handout]