"It's been torture": Father of missing 6-year-old boy with autism says son took off running

Last Updated Sep 27, 2018 3:07 PM EDT

Thursday afternoon, the FBI and Gastonia Police announced the discovery of a body believed to be Maddox Ritch. His parents had been notified, and investigators are working to positively identify the body.

GASTONIA, N.C. — Dozens of law enforcement officers joined the search Wednesday for a missing boy in North Carolina.

"It's been torture. I'm not eating, not sleeping i'm just worried about getting my little boy back," said Ian Ritch.

He hasn't seen his 6-year-old son Maddox since Saturday. That's when he and his girlfriend took Maddox — who has autism and does not speak — to a local park, where there is a track and a lake.

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Maddox Ritch went missing Saturday.

FBI

"A jogger passed by and as he was jogging past us. That's when Maddox started to jog out behind him," Ritch said. "We got so far, he took off from me, running ... and I just never could catch up with him."

"He can run, he can run," Ritch added. "I couldn't keep up with him. Not that fast."

Ritch later said that neuropathy in his feet caused by diabetes makes it difficult for him to run.

"I thought he might have got lost in the woods. After all this time, it's giving me doubts. It makes me wonder if somebody got him in the parking lot," Ritch said.

When asked if he did anything to harm Maddox, Ritch said, "No."

FBI agent Jason Kaplan said Maddox's parents are cooperating.

"We feel very confident that a lot of the information that they provided to us is accurate, and it's helped us a great deal in finding out the last place we saw Maddox," Kaplan said.

Ritch said he took two polygraph tests and passed, but the FBI wouldn't confirm that. Police specifically want to talk to the person who was seen wearing a camouflage hat and taking a silver kayak out of the lake at the time Maddox went missing, and the lake is still be drained.

If you have any information, please contact the Gastonia Police Department at (704) 869-1075, or your local FBI office.