It’s a wonder how law enforcement officials manage to maintain such a stoic exterior despite the horrors they regularly witness. Sometimes I wonder if they have special training.
Other times, I’m convinced that they’re simply made out of different stuff than the rest of us. After all, they often withstand hours of tedium followed by moments of potentially fatal peril.
But maybe they aren’t as different from us as we think they are. Just consider the emotion Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton showed after the latest update in the Maddox Ritch case.
Maddox, a 6-year-old North Carolina boy with autism, vanished on Sept. 22. His father, Ian Ritch, said that Maddox had run away from him while they played at Rankin Lake Park.
“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.”
Over 300 investigators combed through countless acres of land over the following week. They also fielded numerous inquiries and soon found themselves with more questions than answers.
“I just want my little boy back,” CBS News quoted Ritch as saying. “It’s been torture.
“I’m not eating, not sleeping. I’m just worried about getting my little boy back.”
Sadly, one query came to a definite and depressing end on Sept. 27. Searchers discovered the body of a young boy in a stream near the area where Maddox vanished.
Authorities cannot conclusively confirm that the remains belong to Maddox. Yet all signs seem to say that it is him.
“We believe that we have found Maddox, and I think it’s reasonable to say that it’s him,” FBI supervisory special agent Jason Kaplan stated during a press. Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton, who also spoke with the media, was visibly distraught.
He struggled to keep his voice level. At one point, he paused to wipe his eyes.
“I’m heartbroken,” Helton said according to Inside Edition. “Our community’s heartbroken.
“This is not the end that we hoped for.” Indeed, it wasn’t the conclusion that anyone wanted, and the story of the whole heartbreaking affair hasn’t reached its final chapter yet.
The investigation is still ongoing, and some people don’t believe that Maddox’s father is entirely without guilt. Rick Foxx, who works at the park and called 911 when it became known that the boy was missing, expressed doubt.
“I’ve worked there almost three years, and we see everybody come in and out of that park pretty much,” he said. “I didn’t see that kid one time.”
Our prayers are with Maddox’s family as they anxiously wait for answers about their little boy.
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