Body found in creek confirmed to be missing North Carolina boy

GASTONIA, North Carolina — A body found in a creek last Thursday has been confirmed to be that of a missing North Carolina boy.

On Monday, Gastonia police said the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed the identity of the body as Maddox Ritch.

The 6-year-old, who had autism and was non-verbal, was reported missing back on Sept. 22 from Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia. He was with his father and another adult when he disappeared. Ian Ritch said Maddox was about 25 feet to 30 feet ahead of him when he broke into a sprint just as a jogger passed them. Ian Ritch said he is a diabetic and because he has neuropathy in his feet, he has trouble running, and couldn’t catch up with his son.

The boy’s disappearance set off a massive six-day search of the park and nearby area.

“We are deeply saddened to learn the body found by searchers last Thursday is confirmed to be Maddox Ritch,” Chief Robert Helton, Gastonia police, said in a news release. “Hundreds of people searched tirelessly for this child and our work continues to answer every question we can about this tragic death.”

Investigators have not said how the boy died. An autopsy is underway. It’s unknown when the results will be released.

Rankin Lake Park is expected to reopen on Wednesday. It’s been closed since Maddox was reported missing.

Police and the FBI say they want to talk to anyone who was in the park when Maddox disappeared and might know something about what happened.

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

Visitation for Maddox is scheduled for Thursday. His funeral will be held Friday morning followed by a private burial.

A GoFundMe page has been setup to help his mother with expenses.