GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — Maddox Ritch, the six-year-old Gaston County boy with autism who disappeared at Rankin Lake Park in September, died as a result of drowning, according to the autopsy.
The autopsy, which was conducted by the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office, was released to NBC Charlotte Thursday. According to the report, Maddox's body was normally developed and nourished. There was no evidence of trauma, according to the report.
Ritch had multiple facial and upper neck wounds that officials say were caused by animals after his death. An X-ray indicated no bone injuries. His body was found roughly five days after he disappeared on September 22. Blood samples taken from Ritch returned normal results.
The exam was not determined to be conclusive to the decomposition of Maddox's body but the findings are not inconsistent with drowning. Ritch's body was found wearing the same clothes he was wearing the day he disappeared from his father.
"The findings are not inconsistent with drowning. 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 Gastonia Police Department thanked the medical examiner's office for their thorough and detailed work and released the following statement regarding its findings:
"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," said Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton. “We appreciate our many law enforcement, search and rescue partners, and countless others who assisted us in the search for Maddox. We do not anticipate any criminal charges being filed in connection with the investigation.”
A funeral to celebrate Ritch's life was held at Raymer-Kepner Funeral Home in Huntersville on Friday, October 5. Hundreds of people gathered for a public visitation to pay their respects to him and his family.
Editor's Note: Out of respect for the family and the graphic nature of the autopsy report WCNC NBC Charlotte has decided not to link to the public autopsy report.