Police, FBI: Search crews discover body believed to be Maddox Ritch

‘I want my baby back’: Search intensifies for 6-year-old who vanished during family walk

When children with autism go missing, rescuers get to know their likes and dislikes, and use familiar sounds to draw them out during the search.

Crews have found a body in North Carolina believed to be a 6-year-old boy with autism who went missing, authorities said Thursday.

The search for Maddox Ritch, the missing six-year-old boy with special needs in Gaston County, is now in its sixth day as over 330 law enforcement workers are investigating the case.

FBI Charlotte tweeted that the investigation was ongoing, while a news conference is due to be held later on Thursday afternoon. Maddox then started running after spotting a jogger on the trail around the lake, Ritch said, and continued out of sight.

Ritch told People he and a friend were walking with Maddox near the lake when he began running behind a jogger, saying it was common for the boy to run around so he let him.

Ritch said he "couldn't catch up" to the little boy, and that he feels "guilt for letting him get so far ahead". Ritch said Maddox usually runs away, but would either slow down or stop. "I couldn't see him anywhere".

Authorities have also released photos that show what Maddox was last seen wearing: an orange t-shirt with writing "I am the man" on it, with black shorts with a white stripe.

Ritch said he, the friend who was with them and park staff members first helped search for Maddox.

Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton said a part-time park employee reported Maddox missing. "I didn't think nothing of it and he got a little too far away from me", Ian Ritch told "Good Morning America" Wednesday. "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".

"It was extremely hard to see him, even when we were standing right next to him", he said.

When Ritch came to the park office and boat rental area toward the front of the park he could no longer see his son, Ritch said. "We do not want another hour to pass without finding this child and bringing him home. I'm not eating, not sleeping, I'm just anxious about getting my little boy back".

How did Maddox's autism affect the search?

The FBI announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to Maddox's safe return.

Ian said his son's disappearance has left him sleepless for several days and added that he hasn't eaten. Helton declined to say what he was wearing when officials located his body.

Ian Ritch said during a press conference on Wednesday that he just wants Maddox back. Ritch said he couldn't catch up with his son before he vanished.

The search for the boy escalated over the five days since he disappeared, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and two dozen other agencies quickly joining the case.

Ian Ritch said he has some mobility issues related to nerve damage in his feet caused by diabetes. No piece of information is too small.

"Please, urgently please, call the tip line, please", she said, tearfully. Investigators have been playing a message with his parents' voices over loudspeakers, hoping to lure him out of the woods.

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