GASTONIA, N.C. — The six-day search for Maddox Ritch came to a tragic end Thursday after authorities found a body believed to be the missing 6-year-old boy. Ritch, who is autistic and non-verbal, disappeared from Rankin Lake Park on Saturday.
Here's what's happened so far in the investigation:
Monday, October 1
The Medical Examiner's Office positively identifies remains found in Long Creek as Maddox Ritch. The autopsy results are still pending with no known completion date at this time.
Sunday, September 30
Funeral plans are set for Maddox Ritch, the 6-year-old boy who went missing at Rankin Lake Park on September 22.
According to an obituary, a visitation will be held Thursday, October 4 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Raymer-Kepner Funeral Home in Huntersville. A funeral service will be held the next day at 11 a.m. in the same location as the visitation.
A private burial will take place Friday following the funeral.
Thursday, September 27
A body believed to be Maddoxh was found around 1 p.m. Thursday off of Marietta Street/Old Dallas Highway in a creek, Gastonia Police confirmed.
At an afternoon news conference, police chief Robert Helton said formal identification would be done by the medical examiner’s office, and Maddox’s parents were notified immediately after the discovery.
Jason Kaplan with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said there were many unanswered questions in the investigation, namely how Maddox got to Long Creek, where he entered the water and the manner of death.
Authorities continued to ask the public to call the tip line with information: 704-869-1075.
Earlier in the day, search crews expanded their search across Tulip Drive into a wooded area near I-85. The FBI dive team had planned to search the lake and used different equipment than what had used in previous searches.
Wednesday, September 26
The 911 call from a part-time park employee about Maddox's disappearance was released.
Ian Ritch, Maddox's father, spoke to Good Morning America about his son's disappearance, saying the child ran off from him and his friend. Later in the day, Ian spoke to local media and answered questions.
Chief Helton asked a man wearing a camouflage hat who was at the lake with a white pickup truck loading kayaks to call the tip line.
Tuesday, September 25
Carrie Ritch, Maddox's mother, spoke to local media and urged anyone who was at the park on Saturday to call the tip line at 704-869-1075. An FBI spokesperson said the boy's father was not at the news conference because he was with officers at the park, retracing his steps from Saturday.
Kaplan announced a $10,000 reward was being offered in the case.
Chief Helton asked a professional photographer and a male jogger who were in the area to get in touch with authorities.
Monday, September 24
At a news conference on Monday, Kaplan showed pictures of the shirt and shoes Maddox was wearing on Saturday: An orange shirt that read, "I'M THE MAN" and sandal-like shoes with closed toes. Kaplan also said the boy's parents recorded messages for crews to play while they were searching.
In a news release, Gastonia Police said an AMBER Alert had not been issued in the case because it did not meet the criteria.
Sunday, September 23
The FBI arrived in Gastonia to help local law enforcement with the search. Kaplan said the Child Abduction Rapid Deployment Team (CARD) was brought in as well.
Saturday, September 22
Investigators said Maddox's father lost track of his son around 1:30 p.m. at the park. Dispatch records showed first responders weren't called until 2:33 p.m.