Maddox Ritch, autistic boy who disappeared from park, died from accidental drowning

Maddox Ritch, the 6-year-old North Carolina boy with autism who disappeared from a park in September while out with his father, died from accidental drowning, according to officials.

Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office said in an autopsy report released Thursday, there was no evidence of trauma and the child's body was "normally developed and nourished."

Maddox, who was also nonverbal, vanished from Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia on Sept. 22. He was walking with his father, Ian Ritch, and another adult, police previously said. His body was discovered partially submerged in a creek located more than a mile east of the park by a searcher five days after he disappeared.

Ian Ritch said at the time that he was walking with his son when Maddox took off running behind a jogger. Ritch said he tried to catch up to Maddox but didn't know in which direction he ran.

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Body of missing North Carolina boy Maddox Ritch found
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Body of missing North Carolina boy Maddox Ritch found

Maddox Scott Ritch, age 6, was last seen at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia, North Carolina, on September 22, 2018.  He was last seen wearing an orange t-shirt with writing "I am the man" on it and black shorts with a white stripe.

Maddox has autism and is described as being nonverbal.

(Photo: FBI)

Maddox Scott Ritch, age 6, was last seen at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia, North Carolina, on September 22, 2018.  He was last seen wearing an orange t-shirt with writing "I am the man" on it and black shorts with a white stripe.

Maddox has autism and is described as being nonverbal.

(Photo: FBI)

Maddox Scott Ritch, age 6, was last seen at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia, North Carolina, on September 22, 2018.  He was last seen wearing an orange t-shirt with writing "I am the man" on it and black shorts with a white stripe.

Maddox has autism and is described as being nonverbal.

(Photo: FBI)

A search team walks down Tulip Drive in Gastonia, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018. Local law enforcement officers, fire and rescue personnel, and the FBI continue to look for clues to the whereabouts of 6-year-old Maddox Ritch who disappeared from Rankin Lake Park near downtown Gastonia, on Saturday, Sept. 22. (John Clark /The Gaston Gazette via AP)
Ian Ritch walks in for a press conference Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, in Gastonia, N.C., about his 6-year-old son Maddox Ritch who disappeared while they were visiting Rankin Lake Park near downtown Gastonia, Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (John Clark /The Gaston Gazette via AP)
Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton, left, listens as Ian Ritch speaks during a press conference Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, in Gastonia, N.C., about his 6-year-old son Maddox Ritch who disappeared while they were visiting Rankin Lake Park near downtown Gastonia Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. (John Clark /The Gaston Gazette via AP)
HAPPENING NOW: Gastonia PD, FBI, and several other agencies giving the latest update on the search for Maddox Ritch… https://t.co/aH3SwMfBhB
The father of 6-year-old Maddox Ritch was walking around this lake with his child when police say Maddox ran ahead… https://t.co/JPr09sjKEM
We are searching all around the Rankin lake Park for 6-year-old Maddox Ritch. The @GPDNC SWAT team hand searched th… https://t.co/Z4pWdsbB1V
SEARCH CONTINUES FOR AUTISTIC CHILD: This is the third day authorities are searching for missing 6 y/o Maddox Ritch… https://t.co/hBq14rblLU
POLICE: The search continues at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia for 6-year-old Maddox Ritch. Dogs from the S-B-I & Na… https://t.co/0faTBZ4LSK
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According to the medical examiner's report, Maddox was found wearing the same clothes he disappeared in. It also stated that the child's body had multiple wounds on his face, upper neck, lower abdominal, and pelvic region and on his right upper arm most likely from "postmortem animal predation."

An X-ray also showed no signs of bone injuries, and blood samples returned normal results.

"In conjunction with investigative information at this time, which gives no indication of other than an accidental drowning, it seems reasonable to conclude that the likely cause of death is drowning," the report read.

The Gastonia Police Department, which helped the FBI in searching for Maddox, released a statement Thursday saying no criminal charges will be filed in connection to Maddox's death.

"We appreciate everyone's patience and support while we worked to uncover every piece of evidence available to bring our death investigation to this conclusion. I ask for continued prayers for Maddox's family and everyone touched by this child's tragic death," Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton said in the statement.

"We appreciate our many law enforcement, search and rescue partners, and countless others who assisted us in the search for Maddox," he said.

 

 

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