Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton fought back tears and a breaking voice at a news conference Thursday to announce officials believed the body searchers found was that of Maddox Ritch.
The FBI tweeted it was "with heavy hearts" on Thursday that a body "believed to be" Maddox had been found. "He got out of my view, and that is whenever I never seen him again [sic]". "Our community's heartbroken, our searchers, our investigators". Maddox had disappeared before his dad could catch up to him.
"Maddox Ritch, a attractive young man, blond hair, blue eyes, out walking this past Saturday with his dad, waking around the lake, looking at turtles, doing the things that a young man would do and this is not the end we hoped for", said Helton, wiping a tear at one point.
"You've seen the enormous amount of resources that we are devoting to locate this precious little boy", Helton said.
Search crews had checked the same area as recently as Tuesday.
Little Maddox Ritch, who has autism, was last seen running away from his father as they explored a local park in North Carolina. FBI Special Agent Jason Kaplan said.
A scheduled autopsy will determine the cause of Maddox's death, as well as whether it was a result of foul play.
"I just want my baby home, please", she said, struggling to contain her emotions.
Helton said he didn't know whether there were signs of trauma on the boy's body. He was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt with the words "I am the man" on it, along with black shorts and closed-toe sandals.
Kaplan declined to comment on the condition of the body. He said the area had been searched previously by drones, all-terrain vehicles and on foot.
"We still want to hear from the others", Kaplan said.
"We've searched and re-searched every day, with new search personnel, every piece of the property", Gastonia Fire Department Chief Phil Welch said. "If we searched this area he could've moved around in the night or something so we sent new teams in".
While Maddox went to school in Concord, people in Gaston County rallied in support of not only the non-verbal autistic boy, but also the hundreds of police and rescue workers who searched six days to find him.
"We are just heartsick... There's a lot of information indicating Maddox was where the family indicated he was and that his movements were what they indicated".
"Maddox's parents have been notified of the discovery". "Because that'll give everybody a rest, everybody trying to find him and wanting to know what's going on with him, and what's going on with the family and all".
"There is no sense of accomplishment here today", Welch said.