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FBI Announces $10,000 Reward In Case Of Missing Autistic Boy

Gastonia Police Department / WTKR

At a press conference on Wednesday, the parents of a missing six-year-old boy shared their grief and begged for his safe return.

Maddox Scott Ritch has been missing since last Saturday, when his father Ian lost sight of him at a local park.

Almost a week after he disappeared, the FBI has offered a $10,000 reward for anyone who can help solve this tragic case.

"I just want my baby home, please, whatever you can do."

Last week, Ian Ritch and another adult were visiting the Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia, North Carolina with Maddox.

But at some point the six-year-old ran ahead of them, and fell out of sight.

Maddox has not been seen since, and Ritch says he has regretted not keeping a closer eye on his son for days.

"Everybody looks at you as a monster, and I regretted it since the moment it happened," he told Good Morning America.

"It's hard to sleep. I feel guilty because I can go to a house and lay down on the bed and he's out there in the woods sleeping on the ground and that's very upsetting."

Carrie Ritch, Maddox's mother, asked other parents to keep her son in their prayers.

"I just want my baby home, please, whatever you can do," she said at a press conference.

"Maddox is my whole world and my reason for living. He's mama's boy."

Police believe Maddox may have wandered off into the woods, or fallen into the park's lake. But even after partially draining the lake, searches of the water have turned up nothing so far.

"No piece of information is too small."

So many people are helping in the search for 6-year-old boy, Maddox Scott Ritch, who is missing since yesterday from...

Posted by Gastonia Police Department on Sunday, September 23, 2018

Investigators say the fact that Maddox is autistic and nonverbal has made tracking him down much more challenging - it's possible he can hear rescuers shouting for him, but can't reply.

Because Maddox may not respond to others, police are playing recorded messages from his parents in an attempt to lure him towards them.

"If he's lost in the woods, he'll be able to hear those messages played, and we're hoping that he'll come to the words of his mother and his father," FBI supervisory special agent Jason Kaplan said on Monday.

Already, local and state police say they have received more than 150 leads since Maddox disappeared.

Volunteers, dogs, drones, and high tech equipment are all being used in the search for the missing boy.

Police have also expanded their search from the park to include a nearby landfill.

They say all possibilities to explain his disappearance, including an abduction, are on the table.

While the hunt continues, Gastonia's Police Chief Robert Helton is asking anyone with a lead to come forward.

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

"Something you may think is insignificant could be helpful to our case."

Police describe Maddox as 4' tall, 45 pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing an orange t-shirt that read "I am the man," with black shorts and sandals.

Anyone with information regarding Maddox can call the tipline at 704-869-1075.

[H/T: CNN, CBS]

Let's keep Maddox and his family in our prayers, until he's brought home safe and sound!

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