Police in North Carolina have confirmed a body found last week is of 6-year-old Maddox Ritch. The boy's father said his son, who had autism, went missing on Saturday, September 22, as they were walking in Rankin Lake Park.
"We are deeply saddened to learn the body found by searchers last Thursday is confirmed to be Maddox Ritch," said Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton. "Hundreds of people searched tirelessly for this child and our work continues to answer every question we can about this tragic death."
Funeral services have been set for Maddox. According to an obituary, visitation will be held Thursday at a funeral home in Huntersville, followed by a funeral service the next day. The burial will be private.
Autopsy results are not available yet, and police continue to investigate what happened to Maddox. His body was found in Long Creek, Gastonia, about a mile from where he disappeared.
Ian Ritch said his son ran away from himand he couldn't catch up. He also said neuropathy in his feet caused by diabetes makes it difficult for him to run.
On Wednesday, police released a 911 call made nearly an hour after Maddox went missing. Rick Foxx, the man who made the call, works at Rankin Lake Park and said he doesn't believe Maddox was ever there.
"It didn't look as though, they were that concerned," Foxx said of Maddox's father and his girlfriend, who was with him at the park. "I've worked there almost three years and we see everybody come in and out of that park pretty much. I didn't see that kid one time."
The FBI and over 300 officers searched the park in their search for Maddox after he went missing. The FBI previously said it had evidence he was at the park, but has not said what that evidence is.
Investigators are asking anyone who was at Rankin Lake Park on the day Maddox disappeared to call the Gastonia Police tip line at 704-869-1075.