On October 1, authorities confirmed the heartbreaking news that the body of the 6-year-old boy found dead in a North Carolina creek was indeed Maddox Ritch.
Maddox was reported missing while playing at a park with his father, Ian Ritch, on Sept. 22.
Ritch said that his son, who has autism and is non-verbal, ran ahead of him and seemingly vanished on that fateful day.
“I couldn’t catch up with him,” Ritch told CBS News. “I feel guilt for letting him get so far ahead of me before I started running after him.”
Police spent the next week combing through the Rankin Lake Park area, desperately hoping that Maddox would be found alive.
On Sept. 27, Gastonia police confirmed that the body of a boy had been found in a marshy area of Long Creek, but could not confirm the body’s identity at the time.
Gastonia police announced on Oct. 1 that the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed that the body found was Maddox Ritch.
“We are deeply saddened to learn the body found by searchers last Thursday is confirmed to be Maddox Ritch,” Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton said. “Hundreds of people searched tirelessly for this child and our work continues to answer every question we can about his tragic death.”
Police are still waiting for conclusive autopsy results to determine the boy’s cause of death.
In the meantime, authorities are asking the public to respect Maddox’s family by not spreading rumors about his death.
“Please, don’t spread rumors, theories, or speculation on social media about Maddox Ritch,” officials with the FBI in Charlotte tweeted on Monday. “The investigation is ongoing, we are working hard to determine how he got into the creek.”
Maddox’s heartbroken family is preparing to hold a funeral for their son on Oct. 5.
The day Maddox’s body was found, the boy’s father took to social media to express his grief and thank everyone involved in finding his son.
Ritch pleaded with parents to hug their own children a little tighter, and begged them not to repeat his fatal mistake.
“Do everything u can with ur children because i wont get the chance to do anything with mine (sic),” Ritch wrote.
Our hearts go out to Maddox’s family, and we wish them privacy and peace during this tragic time.
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