Body of Boy Who Ran Off at Park Found in Creek

Authorities believe they've found the body of Maddox Ritch
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 27, 2018 2:09 PM CDT
Updated Sep 27, 2018 5:03 PM CDT
The message on the sign in front of the Greater Gaston Baptist Association office is shown Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, in Gastonia, NC, near Rankin Lake Park where 6-year-old Maddox Ritch disappeared while...   (AP Photo/John Clark Gaston Gazette)

(Newser) – A tragic end to the story of the 6-year-old North Carolina boy who went missing while visiting a park with his father Saturday: Authorities say they have found a body believed to be that of Maddox Scott Ritch. A neighbor tells FOX 46 Charlotte that local residents asked whether search teams had looked in one particular area near Rankin Lake Park yet; when crews started searching that area Thursday, a body was found around 1pm. Ian Ritch said he and a friend, who has not been publicly identified, were visiting the park for the first time with Maddox, who has autism and is non-verbal, when the boy took off running; Ian Ritch said he is diabetic and has neuropathy in his feet, leaving him unable to keep up with the boy. He, the friend, and park personnel searched for the boy for an hour before calling 911.

At a press conference, the local police chief said the community is "heartbroken," and Fire Chief Phil Welch added, per the AP, "There is no sense of accomplishment here today. There is grieving down at our command post." Welch said a searcher found the body in a creek just over a mile east of the park; the area had been searched previously, but on Thursday a searcher who was walking down the middle of the creek found the body in no more than 3-foot-deep water. An FBI agent said it's too early to tell whether there was any foul play, and none of the officials revealed details including how long the body had been in the creek. (Read more missing boy stories.)

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