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Body found in Gastonia creek was that of missing 6-year-old, authorities confirm

A teddy bear was left at the entrance to Rankin Lake Park after a boy’s body was found in a nearby creek Thursday in Gastonia. Police confirmed Monday that the body was that of autistic 6-year-old Maddox Ritch.
A teddy bear was left at the entrance to Rankin Lake Park after a boy’s body was found in a nearby creek Thursday in Gastonia. Police confirmed Monday that the body was that of autistic 6-year-old Maddox Ritch. AP

The body of a boy found in a Gastonia creek last week was that of autistic 6-year-old Maddox Ritch, the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office has confirmed to Gastonia police.

Results of an autopsy that will determine the cause of death aren’t in yet, Gastonia police said in a statement Monday. It’s unclear when those results will be available.

“We are deeply saddened to learn the body found by searchers last Thursday is confirmed to be Maddox Ritch,” Police Chief Robert Helton said in the statement. “Hundreds of people searched tirelessly for this child and our work continues to answer every question we can about his tragic death.”

An obituary for Maddox appeared over the weekend, saying his funeral will be Friday in Huntersville.

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Maddox Ritch AP

Searchers last Thursday found the boy’s body partially submerged in Long Creek, about a mile east of Rankin Lake Park, where he was last seen on Sept. 22. It’s possible, authorities have said, that the boy walked along the creek from the park and under U.S. 321 to where his body was found.

Investigators are still probing the boy’s movements and how his body came to be in the creek, police said Monday. Authorities said they want to talk to people who were at the park on Sept. 22, and asked anyone who hasn’t already called to contact them at 704-869-1075.

The park will reopen to the public on Wednesday after being closed since the day Maddox disappeared.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051; @bhender
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