Police believe body of missing boy found in Gastonia, North Carolina creek

Maddox Scott Ritch

The father who lost track of his autistic son during a visit to a Gastonia, North Carolina, park said Wednesday he's overwhelmed with guilt as the search for the boy enters day five. Diving teams, pontoon boats, search dogs and ATVs have also been involved in the search.

Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton said Thursday he was "heartbroken" by the discovery of the body believed to be that of Maddox Ritch, the 6-year-old boy with autism who went missing at a North Carolina park. "We searched everywhere." He said during the call that Maddox's parents were still searching for their son.

Three separate sources close to the Maddox Ritch investigation have confirmed to NBC Charlotte that a body has been found in Long Creek near Rankin Lake Park.

Maddox's father, Ian Ritch, said that while walking through the park on Saturday afternoon, the little boy scurried after a jogger and Ritch was unable to catch him.

Maddox Ritch has not been seen since Saturday after he ran away while on a walk in a park with his dad.

"I wouldn't have let him get so far away from me", Ritch told Good Morning America Wednesday.

"He usually runs but will stop to give me a chance to pick him up", Ian said. I thought we would have found him and there was no reason to call police until that time period. He was last seen wearing an orange t-shirt that says "I'm the man" and black shorts with a white stripe.

Hundreds of officials - consisting of the FBI, Gastonia police and Gastonia fire department - scavenged the park in the last six days looking for Maddox. "If you have a shed, a barn, a wooded area, please go take a look and call us immediately if you find anything out of the ordinary". Crews have combed the park daily, and have sifted through nearby dumpsters and scoured drainpipes and manholes. I tried to find him. Ow i want to be just so when i die my lil boy will be the first person i see when i get into heaven.

FBI agent Jason Kaplan said Maddox's parents are cooperating with the investigation, CBS reported.

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The family has set up a $10,000 reward for any information that will help locate the missing boy.

The father of a missing 6-year-old boy with autism said the search for his son has been "torture". "If you were at the park Saturday and saw Maddox, please, urgently, please, call the tip line, please", Carrie pleaded at the press conference on Tuesday.

"Continue praying for him because I just want my baby home, please, whatever you can do", she said.

Ritch said his son was chasing after a jogger.

Authorities said they are investigating all possibilities into what led to Maddox's disappearance.

When CBS questioned Ritch on how a 6-year-old boy could outrun him, Ritch reportedly said he has neuropathy in his feet due to diabetes, which slows him down when running. Our focus is find Maddox as quickly as possible and to bring him home.

The police chief said any piece of information from potential witnesses will help authorities put together a timeline. They have also blasted recordings of his parents' voices, hoping to draw Maddox out.

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

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