Investigators said Thursday the body of a 6-year-old autistic boy from North Carolina who disappeared last weekend has been found.
The body of Maddox Ritch was discovered partially submerged in a creek about a mile away from Rankin Lake Park, where the little boy had first been reported missing Saturday, Charlotte, N.C., radio station WFAE reported.
Law enforcement said the boy's parents have been notified of the discovery and the medical examiner's office has begun working to confirm the body's identification, the news outlet reported.
"Our community is heartbroken — our searchers, our investigators. This is not the end we'd hoped for," said a visibly shaken Gastonia, N.C., Police Chief Robert Helton at a news conference, WFAE reported.
Ian Ritch, Maddox's father, told reporters earlier this week he had been visiting Rankin Lake Park on Saturday with his son and an adult friend. As the three were walking around the lake, a jogger passed by and the child, who is autistic and nonverbal, began running.
Ritch told reporters he was unable to catch up to Maddox because of diabetic neuropathy in his feet, the news outlet reported.
An investigation is continuing.
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