A body believed to be that of missing 6-year-old Maddox Ritch has been found near the North Carolina park where he disappeared, the FBI said Thursday.
The body was found at approximately 1 p.m. and the boy’s parents have been notified, the FBI said. The body was found at a location about four miles from where Maddox was last seen. The identification will be performed by the medical examiner’s office.
Maddox, who is autistic and does not speak, disappeared on Saturday when he ran ahead of his father at Rankin Lake Park. Ian Ritch, who was with his girlfriend, according to CBS News, said this was normally what would happen when they went to the park. However, this time he said he lost sight of Maddox.
Maddox was about 25 feet away before he broke into a sprint as a jogger passed them. The father said he is a diabetic and has trouble running because he has neuropathy in his feet.
“He likes running,” Ian Ritch said. “I couldn’t catch up with him. I feel guilt for letting him get so far ahead of me before I started running after him.”
In a 911 call obtained by WSOC, park employee Rick Foxx said that “I’d say it’s been almost an hour now. We searched everywhere.” He said during the call that Maddox’s parents were still searching for their son.
Gastonia cops say they are looking for people who were at the park that day.
“Police need to talk with everyone at the park on Saturday to find all possible clues or valuable witnesses in the case,” the department wrote on its Facebook page on Wednesday.
Ian Ritch said during a press conference on Wednesday that he just wants Maddox back.
“It’s been torture,” he said. “I’m not eating, not sleeping. I’m just worried about getting my little boy back.”
Mom Carrie Ritch said earlier this week that Maddox “is my whole world and my reason for living.”
A candlelight vigil was held in Gastonia on Wednesday night for Maddox.