Body is believed to be of missing North Carolina boy with autism

Charlene Craig
September 28, 2018

For the past several days, local, state and federal law enforcement personnel - with help from members of the community - have been searching hundreds of acres in and around the park, a popular spot for picnicking, hiking and watersports.

Neighbors have spoken out after body believed to belong to Maddox Ritch, a missing 6-year-old boy with autism, was likely discovered in North Carolina. A police spokeswoman has said Maddox took off running during a walk around the lake.

His parents have been informed and the investigation remains ongoing. Maddox then started running after spotting a jogger on the trail around the lake, Ritch said, and continued out of sight.

Maddox was last seen with his father and another adult at the park around 1:30 p.m. Saturday, according to CNN affiliate WSOC in Charlotte.

He also said, "I feel like I should've caught him, not let him get too far".

Maddox was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt with writing "I am the man" and black shorts with a white stripe.

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"It didn't look as though, they were that concerned", Foxx told CBS News, referring to Ritch and the friend.

NC Emergency Management teams broadened their search area deeper into the marshlands and further east and north through the dense woods surrounding the park Thursday.

Search crews on ATVs checked new areas near the park Wednesday and the Charlotte Fire Department brought in a pontoon boat with a special sonar to aid in the wide-ranging search.

"I'm not eating", he said. "I'm not eating, not sleeping, I'm just anxious about getting my little boy back".

Officials say he has autism and is nonverbal.

Both parents went before the media this week to plead for any information that would lead to the discovery of Maddox, who was autistic. "She said, 'I don't know if we have or not, but we'll check on it and see", Harold Early told FOX 46.

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Jason Kaplan, an FBI supervisory special agent, choked up as he noted the investigation is not over and called for anyone who may have been in the park on Saturday to come forward. "I want to give him a big hug as soon as I see him", he added.

In a previous interview with "Good Morning America", Ian Ritch described the harrowing moment his son got away.

'We have found what we believe is Maddox'.

More than a dozen agencies joined the search, including divers who focused on the lake.

Helton said investigators are searching for witnesses who may be able to help in the case.

Ritch said he has diabetes and neuropathy in his feet, which causes a tingling feeling or numbness, and has some trouble running.

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When Maddox started running faster, Ian thought he would catch up to him as he usually did, but within minutes the boy disappeared. No piece of information is too small. Searchers have played recordings of his parents' voices in an effort to lure the child out of possible hiding places. "Please call the tip line (704-869-1075)".

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