Maddox Ritch missing

Maddox Ritch: Autopsy says autistic boy found in creek died from ‘probable drowning’

An autopsy has determined that Maddox Ritch, the 6-year-old boy with autism who was found dead in a North Carolina creek in September, likely died from an accidental drowning.

Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office also said in Thursday’s report that Ritch suffered wounds to his neck which were likely caused by an animal attack that occurred postmortem. WBTV reported that coroners described Ritch as developed and nourished, noting that his body had no broken bones or showed any signs of trauma.

Due to the rate of decomposition around Ritch’s lower face and neck, Medical Examiner J. Michael Sullivan wrote that authorities could not conclude a definitive cause of death.

“In conjunction with investigative information at this time, which gives no indication … other than an accidental drowning, it seems reasonable to conclude that the likely cause of death is drowning,” the recently-released report stated, per ABC News. “Should future investigative findings impact this determination of cause or manner of death an addendum will be made.”

Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton announced Thursday that it’s unlikely criminal charges will be filed in this case, according to the Gaston Gazette.

Ritch, who was non-verbal, was with his father and his father’s girlfriend when he vanished from Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia on September 22. Following a six-day search, his body was found partially submerged in a creek about a mile from where his father, Ian Ritch, said he ran off.

WTVD reported that Ian claimed Maddox was 25 to 30 feet ahead of him when he broke into a sprint as a jogger passed them. He said neuropathy in his feet made it difficult for him to run after his son.

“I would give anything to go back and save him,” the father wrote on Facebook hours the 6-year-old’s body was discovered. “For the rest of my life I will live with the guilt of not being there to save my son. … hug ur[sic] children tighter and please don’t make my mistake and let them get too far away.”

[Featured image: Maddox Ritch/Gastonia Police Department]