‘Our tears are your tears’: Parents of autistic boy, 6, found dead in a creek thank supporters at his funeral after father was described as ‘suspicious’ for ‘not behaving like a concerned parent’ when his son sprinted out of sight
- Maddox Ritch went missing in Huntersville, North Carolina, on September 22
- His father Ian Ritch claimed the boy was playing in a park when he suddenly sprinted out of sight
- Ritch said he couldn’t catch up with his son because of foot pain from diabetes
- Rankin Lake Park worker Ray Foxx previously said Maddox’s father did not look like a ‘concerned parent’ after the boy went missing
- Foxx was the one who called 911 to report the autistic boy missing
- Five days later Maddox’s body was found in a creek downstream from the park
- Police have not revealed the cause of death as they await autopsy results
- The community held a funeral for the young boy on Friday
The heartbroken community of Huntersville, North Carolina, held an emotional funeral on Friday for Maddox Ritch, a missing six-year-old boy with autism who was found dead late last month after he ran away from a local park under his father’s watch
A father who drew suspicion in the death of his six-year-old autistic son after he claimed the boy ran away from a North Carolina park has thanked first responders for their search efforts at the boy’s emotional funeral.
The desperate search for Maddox Ritch that gripped the small town of Huntersville ended in tragedy on last month when his body was discovered in a creek, five days after his disappearance.
Maddox had been playing in Rankin Lake Park under the watch of his father, Ian Ritch, and a friend on September 22 when the boy ran off, and his dad was unable to catch up to him due to diabetes foot pain.
A park worker who helped search for the boy claimed that Ritch did not appear to be a ‘concerned parent’ as he looked for Maddox.
One week after the boy’s body was found, the Huntersville community gathered to remember him at a private service on Friday.
Maddox’s parents Carrie and Ian are seen center outside the funeral home after the memorial
A custom portrait sits inside the funeral home alongside a bouquet of white flowers
In a statement on the back of the funeral program, Maddox’s parents Carrie and Ian Ritch thanked law enforcement and the community for their support throughout the five-day search.
‘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.’
The funeral home was decorated with photos of Maddox and his family (above with mom)
Maddox’s aunt Delores Lindley expressed her gratitude to law enforcement and the community as she spoke to media through tears outside the funeral home
Maddox’s aunt Delores Lindley echoed the parents’ gratitude speaking with media outside the Raymer-Kepner Funeral Home, which was decorated with photos and a handmade portrait of Maddox along with bouquets of flowers.
‘We realize that our prayers are your prayers also,’ Lindley told Fox46 through tears. ‘And that our tears are your tears too. There are no words that can adequately express our love and appreciation to all of you.’
She said of Maddox: ‘He had a contagious smile. And he was a happy child.’
The funeral was held under two weeks after Maddox went missing, a period that one attendee described as ‘pure hell’.
Amanda Wallace, a family friend who said she knew Maddox his entire life and was at the hospital the day he was born, said it was ‘days upon days of agony of not knowing, and then, finally getting the news that he is gone. It’s anybody’s worst nightmare.’
She added: ‘He is in a far better place than we are.’
Maddox’s parents pictured speaking at a press conference four days after the boy went missing on September 22. Maddox’s body was found the following day
Police have not released information about how Maddox died as they await autopsy results.
Ian Ritch told authorities that Maddox, who is nonverbal with strangers, was playing about 30 feet away from him when a jogger ran by and the boy suddenly broke into a sprint.
‘He likes running,’ Ritch at a press conference the day before Maddox was found. ‘I couldn’t catch up with him. I feel guilt for letting him get so far ahead of me before I started running after him.’
Ritch said the boy looked back at him and laughed, adding that he would slow down and then speed up again.
The father drew a small degree of suspicion after he waited an hour to report his son missing to police.
He said that he delayed the call because he thought he would find his son and there was no reason to alert police.
Park employee Rick Foxx, who called 911 on September 27 to report Maddox missing and who initially helped with the search, said he does not believe the child was ever at the park.
Foxx also claimed Ian Ritch did not seem very concerned about his special-needs son in the immediate aftermath of the boy’s disappearance.
Maddox was remembered by friends and family as a happy child with a contagious smile
The five-day search ended in tragedy when Maddox’s body was found in a creek September 27
Ritch expressed his grief in a lengthy statement on Facebook, writing that he ‘loved that lil boy, he was my best lil buddy’.
He went on to say Maddox was his only child, and he would never have another one, before launching into a retelling of the devastating week from his point of view.
‘I wasn’t so worried about him when all this started on Saturday because I expected to find him right off,’ he said.
‘Over time I got more and more scared and worried. Once Sunday morning came that’s when it starts me thinking I had something to worry about.
‘Now today I found out I’m not a dad anymore. I had big plans with my son. I wanted us to go fishing play ball go camping.
‘I wanted to be his heroe [sic]. I wanted him to say I was more than Superman or Batman to him. I wanted people to ask him who his heroe [sic] is and him say my daddy.
‘Now I’m no heroe [sic], I couldn’t save him or protect him at all. I would give anything to go back and save him.’
Ritch expressed his grief in a lengthy Facebook post on the day Maddox’s body was found