The mother of a six-year-old autistic boy in North Carolina who vanished over the weekend at a park with his father is pleading for the public’s help in locating the child.
Carrie Ritch gave an emotional plea for help on Tuesday, three days after Maddox Ritch ran off at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia.
Ritch asked anyone who was at the park on Saturday to call the police tip line.
‘Continue praying for him because I just want my baby home, please,’ she said. ‘Whatever you can do. Maddox is my whole world, and my reason for living. He’s momma’s boy.’
‘I want my baby back in my arms,’ Ritch added.
Carrie Ritch gave an emotional plea on Tuesday for help finding her missing autistic son
Maddox Ritch, six, disappeared on Saturday at a park in North Carolina with his father
The boy was running near a lake at the park when his father said he lost sight of Maddox
Maddox’s father, Ian Ritch, was not at the press conference because he was at the park retracing his steps for investigators. Authorities said the parents are fully cooperating with the investigation.
‘(Ian) is with us across the street helping us with this investigation and to further this case,’ FBI spokeswoman Shelley Lynch said.
Maddox is described as four feet tall with blond hair and blue eyes. He was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt with the words ‘I am the man’ and black shorts. His parents said he is autistic and has limited verbal skills.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which is also assisting in the search, said in a statement that he may be in need of medical attention.
Ian Ritch said he was walking with Maddox and his friend around 1.30pm on Saturday near the back of the lake when his son started running behind a jogger.
Ian told People magazine that he let his son run for a little bit but when Maddox started running faster he gave chase. Ian said he lost sight of Maddox before he could catch up to him.
‘I was terrified. I didn’t know which direction he went so I looked as hard as I could, I went different ways and everything,’ he said. ‘I tried to find him. I don’t know where he went. Usually when he takes off running he’ll slow down and stop for me to catch up with him. This time he never stopped.
The six-year-old boy is autistic and has limited verbal skills, his parents said
Ian Ritch (pictured with Maddox) said he chased after his son but lost sight of him and he didn’t know which way the boy ran
Maddox was last seen running by a lake at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia by his father (pictured)
Ian said park rangers helped him look for Maddox before calling police. The FBI have since joined the search and authorities are going door-to-door at businesses along Highway 321 near the park searching for possible information.
Investigators are also working to obtain surveillance footage from different business that could tell them where Maddox went. A reward of $10,000 is being offered for any information that helps police find Maddox.
‘These past few days have been hell for me. I’m so broken. I’m heartbroken,’ Ian said. ‘Every time it gets dark at night I burst into tears because I’m thinking, “My little boy is out there alone”. The longer (the search is) going the harder it gets because I’m so worried. He hasn’t had anything to eat or drink.’
He added: ‘People are making it out like I did something to him. I would never hurt my little boy. I love him to death and I just want him back. I’ve been feeling the blame since this happened. I just wish I would have caught him before he got too far away from me. It’s broken my heart to think that I just let him get too far away.’
FBI Special Agent Jason Kaplan said: ‘We’re going to explore all possibilities, including abduction.
Local authorities and the FBI are conducting a massive search across the state to search for Maddox
Authorities have been searching for Maddox for the past three days
‘But we’re also going to make sure we search every inch of land around here to make sure he’s not simply lost’, reports ABC.
According to Gastonia Police department in addition to the FBI, at least 24 local and state law enforcement agencies and more than 100 volunteers are assisting the search.
Officers have so far searched the lake and reviewed the park’s surveillance footage, as well as interviewing residents and people who were in the park at the time.
Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton said: ‘If you were at Rankin Lake Park on Saturday and saw Maddox or took video or photos of their outing at the park, call us.
‘We know a lot of people were in the park and we have spoken to many of them, but we have not spoken to everyone.
‘No piece of information is too small. Something you may think is insignificant could be helpful to our case,’ he added.
Anyone with information is asked to call the police department’s special tip line at 704-869-1075.