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Missing Autistic Boy Found Dead After Five Days

Gastonia Police Department / FBI Charlotte

Federal officials in Charlotte announced that a body discovered near a highway in Gastonia, North Carolina is that of a missing boy.

Six-year-old Maddox Ritch went missing last Saturday during a trip to a local park with his father.

“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," FBI Charlotte tweeted.

Maddox's disappearance prompted an intense search and rescue operation by local police, state police, and the FBI.

Authorities partially drained an 80-acre lake and chased more than 150 leads reported through a tip line before the body was discovered.

The FBI even offered a $10,000 reward for any information that would help bring Maddox home.

Investigators said Maddox’s case posed added difficulties because he had autism and was nonverbal.

The search continues at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia for 6-year-old Maddox Ritch. Dogs from the SBI & National Center for Missing and Exploited Children are re-searching areas.

Posted by Gastonia Police Department on Monday, September 24, 2018

Officials say the investigation into Maddox's disappearance and death is "ongoing."

The city of Gastonia also tweeted that the remains will be identified by the local medical examiner’s office.

Authorities are still looking for two persons of interest in the case: an unidentified male jogger who was in the park when Maddox vanished and a photographer taking photos of other children in costumes.

On Tuesday, Maddox’s father Ian told People that he thought his son “was lost in the woods, now I’m not so sure.”

At approximately 1 p.m. on September 27, 2018, search crews discovered a body believed to be Maddox Ritch off of...

Posted by Gastonia Police Department on Thursday, September 27, 2018

“They’ve been looking for days and haven’t found anything. I’m starting to worry. It’s been too long. They had so many search and rescue [teams] that they should have found him by now.”

Ian previously described suddenly losing sight of his son during what seemed like a normal trip to the park.

“I couldn't catch up with him. I feel guilt for letting him get so far ahead of me before I started running after him,” he remembered.

[H/T: CNN, People, CBS News]

Rest in peace Maddox. Let's hope investigators get to the bottom of this case.

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