Day 6: Dive teams to search lake for missing Gastonia boy with autism

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GASTONIA, N.C. — Six days after 6-year-old Maddox Ritch went missing from a Gastonia park, the search goes on.

On Thursday, members of a specialized dive team with the Federal Bureau of Investigation will search the Rankin Park Lake, located near where Ritch disappeared on Saturday, according to WBTV.

The boy disappeared during a trip to Rankin Lake Park Saturday. Ian Ritch was with his son, who has autism and is nonverbal, and another adult when he says the boy ran off and he couldn’t keep up.

The FBI plans to bring new equipment, different from what’s been previously used, to the lake search, according to WBTV.

Gastonia police continue to drain the lake.

The FBI and other agencies have repeatedly asked for anyone who was present at Rankin Lake Park that day is asked to call the tip line, (704) 869-1075.

Police said Maddox is 4 feet tall and weighs 45 pounds. He has blond hair and blue eyes. Maddox was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt with the words “I am the man,” along with black shorts and closed-toe sandals.

The FBI is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to his location.

The 911 Call

The 911 call, in which the boy was reported missing, was released Wednesday.

In the call, a park employee can be heard reporting Maddox Ritch missing as his parents search Rankin Lake Park for their missing son.

He provides the boy’s description and said the boy had been missing for about an hour.

Family speaks out

“I just want my little boy back home,” Ritch said at a Wednesday afternoon news conference. “I want to know he’s safe. I want to give him a big hug as soon as I see him.”

On Wednesday, Ritch told CBS News correspondent David Begnaud he knows he is under scrutiny.

“I mean, I know I’m the number one suspect when it starts. That’s plain and simple,” Ritch said after being asked by Begnaud if he felt he was being treated as a suspect.

Ritch said he has cooperated with the authorities and given them “everything that they’ve asked for.”

Carrie Ritch has been posting updates to Facebook in the days since her son was last seen at Rankin Lake Park with his father Saturday.

“I ask that people STOP making up stories and making negative comments,” she wrote Wednesday. “This is extremely overwhelming for me. My focus is bringing my Baby home safely.”


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