© 2020 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Local News

Funeral Plans Set For Maddox Ritch, 6-Year-Old Gastonia Boy Found Dead


Funeral arrangements have been announced for Maddox Ritch, the autistic 6-year-old boy who went missing at a park in Gastonia and was found dead after an emotional, five-day search.

According to the obituary, a visitation will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4 at Raymer-Kepner Funeral Home in Huntersville. A funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 5 in the chapel of the funeral home. The boy’s burial will be private.

“Maddox was a sweet and loving little boy who was full of laughter,” the obituary read. “He loved Paw Patrol, his Teddy, playing with his bouncy balls, but above all he loved his mom and dad the most.”

Maddox disappeared on Sept. 22 at Rankin Lake Park where he had visited with his father Ian Ritch and an adult friend. Ritch said his son, who is autistic and nonverbal, enjoyed running so he allowed him to run ahead. Ritch said he lost sight of his son when he began sprinting after a jogger and was unable to catch up with him due to diabetic neuropathy in his feet.

About an hour later, a park employee called 911 to report the missing child, setting off an emotional days-long search. Authorities say the boy’s body was found Thursday afternoon partially submerged in a creek roughly a mile from the park.

The ending shook the Gastonia community.

Credit Nick de la Canal / WFAE
Gastonia Fire Chief Phil Welch, right, addresses the media at a Thursday afternoon press conference after the body of Maddox Ritch was found.

“Our community is heartbroken — our searchers, our investigators. This is not the end we’d hoped for,” said a Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton in a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Ian Ritch announced the discovery of his son’s body in an emotional post to Facebook Thursday evening.

“Now today I found outI'mm not a dad anymore,” Ritch wrote. “I had big plans with my son. I wanted us to go fishing play ball go camping. I wanted to be his [hero]. I wanted him to say I was more than Superman or Batman to him. I wanted people to ask him who his [hero] is and him say my daddy.”

Ritch wrote he will forever live with the guilt of his son’s death.

“I would give anything to go back and save him,” he wrote.

The post received over 1,400 comments and 1,500 shares.

Maddox was born on Aug. 14, 2012, in Mecklenburg County to Ian Scott Ritch and Carrie Irene Ritch. 

The funeral home is located on 16901 Old Statesville Road. More information can be found here.

We Need Your Help Now More Than Ever

WFAE mask

Our newsroom is hard at work covering everything from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to the aftermath of the election, the race for a vaccine and our communities' fight to rebuild. But we can't do it without you. Support our local journalism with a donation of ANY amount, and we’ll send you a free WFAE member mask courtesy of AllDayMask.com of Monroe.