Investigators Have More Questions After Body of Missing Boy Found in Creek

GASTONIA, N.C. – An emotional end to the search for 6-yr-old Maddox Ritch.

“Our community is heartbroken, our searchers, our investigators,” said Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton.

A search crew found Ritch’s body in the middle of Long Creek around 1:00 Thursday afternoon.

Investigators say he was partially submerged under two or three feet of water. Crews say thick undergrowth and debris in the water posed a challenge.

“It was extremely difficult to see him, even when we were standing right next to him,” said Jason Kaplan, Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI.

The location is more than a mile away from where Maddox was last seen, running away from his father Saturday in Rankin Lake Park.

“There was a pathway, if he had approached that and he could have walked under 321 and future greenway area,” said Gastonia Fire Chief Phil Welch.

What investigators want to know now – is where he got in the creek – and how.

“Was there any crime that was committed or are we simply looking at an accident?” Kaplan asked.

The FBI seemingly believes the boy’s father Ian Ritch, who says Maddox took off when a jogger passed by and ran out of sight.

“There’s a lot of information indicating that Maddox was where the family indicated he was and his movements were what they indicated,” Kaplan said.

But investigators say there are still many unanswered questions.

“This is not the end for the investigation. This is simply one more step to getting the full answers that we need to get,” Kaplan said.