Maddox Ritch, 6, was found dead on September 27. He had been missing since September 22 in Gastonia, North Carolina, just outside of Charlotte. Maddox was found at around 1 p.m. off of Marrietta Street and the Old Dallas Highway in Gastonia. His parents have been notified.
He had been described as having autism and as being “nonverbal.” The FBI was offering up to $10,000 for information that led to finding Maddox. Maddox was with his father, Ian Ritch, in Rankin Lake Park when he was reported missing. Ritch says his son ran ahead of him. Ritch said his son was chasing after a jogger. At the time he was last seen, Maddox was wearing an orange t-shirt with the words, “I am the man,” printed on it. In addition to black shorts with a white stripe.
In a press conference on September 26, Ian Ritch told the media, “I just want my son home. It’s torture.” A press release from the Gastonia Police Department says that Ritch, Maddox’s mother, Carrie Ritch, and Ritch’s girlfriend, who was also present in the park, are all co-operating with the investigation. Around 330 law enforcement officer from local police to the FBI have been searching the park. The Gastonia Police Department has implored more people who were at the park on September 22 to come forward. The FBI is looking to speak to the jogger as well as a man who was loading a kayak into a truck nearby and professional photographer who was in the area at the time. Officials are worried that impending weather might hamper the search efforts.
Anybody with any information about Maddox’s whereabouts is asked to call 704 869-1075.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Person Who Made the 911 Call Isn’t Sure Maddox Was Ever in the Park
Police in North Carolina released the Maddox Ritch 911 call on the morning of September 27. The call was made by Rick Foxx, who works at Rankin Lake Park. Foxx told CBS News, “It didn’t look as though they were that concerned. 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 911 call didn’t come until an hour after Ritch says he lost sight of his son. Ritch said of the delay, “My initial thought is that I had park staff searching. I thought we would have found him and there was no reason to call police until that time period. Then it got scary.”
Foxx can be heard saying in the 911 call, “We’ve got a missing kid. He’s been missing for the last 30-40 minutes. Hour maybe… We searched everywhere.” In a separate interview with WSOC-TV, Foxx said, “The dad approached me and said he lost his kid. I said, “When is the last time you seen him? He said that the kids, they were coming around the track, and the kid got away from him.” Foxx added that Carrie Ritch eventually showed up to help in the search, “The mother was really frantic. She was hysterical. She got out of the car, and one of the sheriff’s deputies had to calm her.” Foxx said that her reaction was completely different to Ritch’s. Foxx said, “He didn’t act like a concerned parent, like I would act, or any concerned parent would not… I pray and hope they find that kid alive, I really do. I really hope so.”
2. Ritch Said: ‘I Know I’m the No.1 Suspect’
In an interview with CBS News’ David Begnaud, on September 26, Ritch said, “I mean, I know I’m the number one suspect when it starts. That’s plain and simple.” Ritch said that investigators have asked and been supplied with his phone records as well as getting access to his car and home.
Ritch has told CBS News that he has taken two polygraph tests but the FBI has not released the results. Speaking to Fox46, FBI supervisory special agent Jason Kaplan said of Ritch, “We’ve worked very hard with him and Maddox’s mom. We feel confident that the information is accurate and has helped.”
3. Ian Ritch Said that He ‘Couldn’t Catch Up’ With His Son
During a September 26 press conference, Ritch told the media, “It’s torture. I want him back home. I want to give him a big hug and know he’s safe. He initially took off 30 feet from me then he went into a major sprint. I was giving him a little leeway. I wanted him to have fun.”
Ritch told Good Morning America that he has difficulty running because of diabetes and neuropathy in his feet. Ritch also said in that interview that his son only talks at home and doesn’t communicate with strangers. Maddox Ritch attended school in Concord, North Carolina. When asked about the moment he lost track of his son, Ritch told Begnaud:
All of us was together. Everything was great. And then a jogger passed by and as he was jogging past us, that’s when Maddox started to jog out behind him. So I usually just give him a little space and let him do his thing and once we got so far, he took off from me running and I tried to catch him. And I just never could catch up with him. He had too much of a head start on me.
Ritch added that his son “had too many options” and could have gone into either a parking lot or on to a running track. Begnaud later reported that Ritch had not disclosed his diabetes or his neuropathy to him.
Speaking to People Magazine, Ritch said, “These past few days have been hell for me. I’m so broken. I’m heartbroken. Every time it gets dark at night I burst into tears because i’m thinking, “My little boy is out there alone.” Ritch added, “I was terrified. I didn’t know which direction he went, so I looked as hard as I could. I went difficult ways and everything. I tried to find him. I don’t know where he went. Usually, when he takes off running, he’ll slow down and stop for me to catch up with him. This time he never stopped.”
4. Ritch Works as a Manager at a Grocery Store
According to his Facebook page, Ritch works as a manager at a Harris Teeter grocery store. He has previously worked at a variety of grocery stores in the Concord-area. Ritch says he’s from Kings Mountain, North Carolina, and now lives in Concord. Ritch attended Kings Mountain High and Cleveland Community College. Since the news of Maddox’s disappearance, many Facebook users have been bombarding Ritch’s Facebook page with negative comments, accusing him of hiding something. In a Facebook post, Ritch said that he has not received any money for any interviews he has done.
5. A Candlelight Vigil Has Been Held for Maddox in Gastonia
The City of Gastonia held a candlelight vigil for Maddox on the night of September 26. Maddox’s mother, Carrie Ritch, has told the media, “I just want my baby home, please, whatever you can do. Maddox is my whole world and my reason. He’s mama’s boy. His smile is so contagious, and his laughter is so precious.”