Maddox Ritch should be remembered as a sweet, fun-loving boy, a family friend said on Friday, before the 6-year-old’s funeral.
“He is in a far better place than we are,” said Amanda Wallace, a family friend who said she knew Maddox his entire life and was at the hospital the day he was born.
Friday’s funeral took place just over a week after police found the body of Maddox in a creek, ending a five-day search.
Mourners gathered at 11 a.m. at Raymer-Kepner Funeral Home in Huntersville. Services were private.
The past two weeks have been “to be bluntly honest, just pure hell,” Wallace said. From hearing the news that Maddox was missing to “days upon days of agony of not knowing, and then, finally getting the news that he is gone.”
“It’s anybody’s worst nightmare,” Wallace said.
Police searched for five days and found the body of Maddox in a creek last Thursday. Police have not said how he died and are awaiting autopsy results.
The creek where Maddox’s body was found is downstream from Rankin Lake Park, where he was last seen.
Maddox, who had autism and was nonverbal with strangers, was with his father and another adult at the time he disappeared.
Ian Ritch, the boy’s father, told reporters that he last saw his son running and laughing at the park. Maddox then started running after spotting a jogger on the trail around the lake, Ritch said, and continued out of sight. Ritch, who said he has foot pain because of diabetes, said he ran after his son but couldn’t find him.
On the back of the program, a photo of Maddox’s parents Carrie and Ian Ritch holding Maddox thanked law enforcement and the community.
“A special thank you to all the agencies, both federal and local, who tirelessly searched for our beautiful little boy. Your heartfelt perseverance throughout this very difficult time, will never be forgotten. We love you now and always,” the note states.
“A special thank you to everyone in the community whose hearts were touched by our little Maddox. We realize that, our prayers are your payers also, ... that our tears, are your tears too. There are no words that we can offer to adequately express our love and appreciation to all of you.”