North Carolina Boy with Autism Is Missing: 'I Blame Myself,' Says Dad


Shortly after police announced a body had been found Thursday, Gastonia resident Robin Marshburn had tied blue and white balloons to a street sign near the park and placed a teddy bear at its base.

Maddox's father, Ian Ritch, said he and a friend were walking with Maddox in the park when his son ran ahead, likely triggered by a passing jogger.

The search for the missing boy, who has autism and is nonverbal, came to a tragic end on Thursday.

FBI Special Agent Jason Kaplan said during the same news conference that "unfortunately, it's not uncommon for special-needs children, or a boy who has autism or a girl who has autism, to get lost or be missing, so it's something we deal with unfortunately with some frequency".

Crews have found a body in North Carolina believed to be a 6-year-old boy with autism who went missing, authorities said Thursday. "We searched everywhere." He said during the call that Maddox's parents were still searching for their son.

"I would appreciate it, if you were at the park Saturday and saw Maddox, to please, urgently, please, call the tip line, please", she said.

Maddox's dad, Ian Ritch, and an unidentified friend had taken Maddox to the Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia, North Carolina, to go for a walk when he suddenly took off on foot, according to WSOCTV 9.

The body was apparently found across from Rankin Lake Park, where Maddox was last seen at midday Saturday. I thought we would have found him and there was no reason to call police until that time period.

"I could see him until a certain part and he got out of my view, and that is when I never seen him again", Ian Ritch told Good Morning America Wednesday.

The Gastonia Police Department has implored more people who were at the park on September 22 to come forward.

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"We want to find Maddox. We prayed that this was not going to be the result of this thing", one unidentified woman, a neighbor, said in a WBTV report.

"First i want to say thank u from the bottom of my heart to everyone who took part in searching for my sweet lil buddy".

"I want my baby back in my arms". Investigators say they're following 250 leads and combing through thousands of acres.

Authorities are also hoping a $10,000 reward offered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation will provide information to help find Maddox. "She said, 'I don't know if we have or not, but we'll check on it and see", Harold Early told FOX 46. If you were at Rankin Lake Park on Saturday, police need your help to put together a timeline to help solve the case.

Ian Ritch with son Maddox. The father said he is a diabetic and has trouble running because he has neuropathy in his feet. Another adult said to be with the father and son at the time has not publicly spoken about the incident.

The FBI added its Underwater Search and Evidence Response Team to the search Wednesday.

"No piece of information is too small", he said.

"Please, urgently please, call the tip line, please", she said, tearfully.

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Ritch said: 'He likes running.