After five days of searching for a little boy in North Carolina, the case has come to a sad end. A body believed to be the body of the little boy, Maddox Ritch, was found on Thursday, city officials and the FBI said.
The 6-year-old, who vanished in broad daylight in a North Carolina park Saturday, was non-verbal and had autism.
Maddox was at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia with his father, Ian Ritch, and another adult. While they were there, he began to sprint away from his father. He got roughly 25-30 feet ahead of his father, and his father was unable to catch him.
"I feel guilt for letting him get so far ahead of me," Ritch told reporters.
The body was found at about 1 p.m. Thursday. The boy’s parents have been notified, reported the Charlotte Observer, and identification of the body will be done by the medical examiner’s office.
The boy's father has diabetes and neuropathy in his feet that can make it difficult for him to run.
"As soon as I got to the point where I couldn’t see him anymore, I started panicking," Ritch said.
“I just want my son home,” Ritch said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, according to a Gastonia police news release. “It’s torture.”
Please pray for the Ritch family as they mourn the loss of their son. It's unclear if this is was a matter of foul play or if the young boy just died after being exposed to the elements for too long.