Maddox Ritch is the six year old North Carolina boy who was reported missing on Saturday. Agents and detectives from more than a dozen local, state and federal agencies have been hunting for little Maddox, who has special needs and may have trouble communicating. As the search entered its fourth day, the FBI announced a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to a break in the case.
On Thursday afternoon, news reports said that a body believed to belong to Maddox had been found. Authorities said the body had been found near a Gastonia highway. “With heavy hearts we announce a body believed to be 6-year-old Maddox Ritch was found at approximately 1 p.m. off of Marietta Street/Old Dallas Highway in Gastonia,” officials wrote in a tweet. “Maddox’s parents have been notified of the discovery. The investigation is ongoing.”
Here’s what you need to know about Maddox Ritch:
1. Maddox Is Autistic and Non-Verbal
Six year old Maddox is autistic and cannot speak. He is blond and blue-eyed, is 4 feet tall, and weighs 45 pounds. He was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt with the words “I am the man,” along with black shorts and closed-toe sandals.
His mother,Carrie, said that Maddox “is my whole world and my reason for living. He’s momma’s boy.” She added, “Maddox loves the park. He loves Bouncy Balls and he loves his teddy bear.” Describing her son, she said, “his smile is so contagious and his laughter is so precious.”
Maddox’s father, Ian, told People Magazine that he is heartbroken and feels like he is going through hell. “These past few days have been hell for me. I’m so broken. I’m heartbroken,” he said. “Every time it gets dark at night I burst into tears because I’m thinking, ‘My little boy is out there alone.’ The longer [the search is] going the harder it gets because I’m so worried. He hasn’t had anything to eat or drink.”
2. He Was Last Seen in a Park With His Father
On Saturday afternoon Maddox’s father, Ian Ritch, took his son to Rankin Lake Park near Gastonia, North Carolina. A friend of Ian’s of theirs went along with them. The group was walking along the lake; Maddox was walking beside his father and his friend. Suddenly, Maddox took off running, following a jogger. When he didn’t slow down or come right back, his father chased after him. But he quickly lost sight of the boy.
Ian called park rangers, who helped him search for Maddox. When they couldn’t find him quickly, they called 911. Authorities have been searching for the boy ever since. On Sunday, the park was closed to the public so that police could conduct their search more thoroughly.
Authorities say they are searching for the jogger who Maddox ran after. They also want to speak to a man who was in the park Saturday taking photos of families. Police have been asking anyone who was in the park on Saturday afternoon to come forward, in the hopes that someone might remember a detail that could help them to locate Maddox.
3. Maddox May Be in Need of Medical Attention
Authorities say that Maddox may need medical attention. The little boy is autistic and non-verbal and may have trouble communicating his needs to others.
Maddox went missing on Saturday, when he was at the park with his father. He playfully started to run ahead of his father as they walked along a path around a lake. His father, Ian, said that normally Maddox would double back or slow down to let him catch up. This time, Maddox was running after a jogger on the path, and did not slow down.
When his father tried to catch up with him, Maddox was already too far ahead. Ian lost sight of him. He alerted park rangers, and then called 911. So far, authorities have not been able to find Maddox.
4. Authorities Have Been Broadcasting Recordings of Ian and Carrie’s Voices Throughout the Park, Hoping to Lure Maddox in to Safety
Authorities have been looking all over the park to try and find six year old Maddox. They’ve looked behind rocks, in dumpsters, and in the lake. They’ve even drained the edges of the lake in the hopes that this will help them find the little boy.
Authorities have also been playing recordings of Carrie and Ian’s voices on loudspeakers throughout the park. They are hoping that, if Maddox is lost in the woods, he may hear his parents’ voices and come towards the families sound.
On Tuesday Maddox’s father, Ian, once again retraced every step of the path he took with Maddox on Saturday afternoon, hoping to turn up a clue of some kind.
5. Authorities Have Not Issued an Amber Alert in Maddox’s Case
Authorities say that Maddox’s disappearance does not meet the criteria for an Amber alert. The Amber alert was named after a child named Amber Hagerman, a 9 year old who was abducted and murdered in Texas in 1996. When an Amber alert is declared, notifications about a missing child are distributed to television stations, radio stations and other media, as well as to wireless devices by email and text messages.
The criteria for an Amber alert are strict: the alert can only be issued when authorities believe that a child has been abducted. The Justice Department guidelines read, “This is essential when determining the level of risk to the child. To allow activations in the absence of significant information that an abduction has occurred could lead to abuse of the system and ultimately weaken its effectiveness.”
“We’re not at the point of reaching the criteria for an Amber Alert,” said Rachel Bagley, a spokeswoman for the city of Gastonia and its police department.
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