FBI joins massive search for 6-year-old North Carolina boy with autism


    Maddox Ritch. (Gastonia Police Department)

    GASTONIA, N.C. (WSET) - Hundreds of first responders are in Gastonia, North Carolina, searching for a 6-year-old boy with special needs.

    WSOC reports that Maddox Ritch was last seen at Rankin Lake Park at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

    The FBI joined more than two dozen local and state law enforcement agencies to look for the boy Sunday when the search picked back up.

    "We're going to explore all possibilities, including abduction," FBI Special Agent Jason Kaplan said Sunday, "but we're also going to make sure we search every inch of land around here to make sure that he's not simply lost.”

    Maddox, who is described as nonverbal, was walking near a lake at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia at around 1:30 p.m. Saturday when his father lost sight of him, authorities said.

    He was wearing an orange shirt with “I’m the man” on the front of the T-shirt; he's 4 feet tall and weighs 65 pounds with blonde hair and blue eyes.

    Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton said officers were searching the lake, reviewing the park’s surveillance footage and interviewing residents in the area for clues.

    The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which is also assisting in the search, said Maddox may be in need of medical attention.

    Anyone with information is asked to call the police department’s special tip line at 704-869-1075.

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