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home : news : news January 19, 2019

11/30/2018 8:29:00 AM
Autopsy Report Says Autistic Child Drowned
Gastonia Police say no charges expected in his death
Lincoln Herald File Photo
Lincoln Herald File Photo

Wayne Howard
Staff Writer

There are still many uncertainties about the disappearance and death of a 6-year-old autistic boy at Gastonia's Rankin Lake in September, but police now say they do not expect any charges to be filed in his death. 

Gastonia Police issued the following news release on Thursday (Nov. 29th):

The Gastonia Police Department and the FBI have spent countless hours investigating the disappearance and death of 6-year-old Maddox Ritch. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) recently completed and published the results of the autopsy on Maddox's body. The report, completed by the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office states, “In conjunction with investigative information at this time, which gives no indication of other than an accidental drowning, it seems reasonable to conclude that the likely cause of death is drowning.” The Gastonia Police Department is grateful to the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office for its thorough and detailed work.

"We appreciate everyone's patience and support while we worked to uncover every piece of evidence available to bring our death investigation to this conclusion. I ask for continued prayers for Maddox's family and everyone touched by this child's tragic death," said Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton. “We appreciate our many law enforcement, search and rescue partners, and countless others who assisted us in the search for Maddox. We do not anticipate any criminal charges being filed in connection with the investigation.”

Ritch was reported missing after an outing with his father and his father's girlfriend at Rankin Lake Park off US321 just north of Interstate 85 in Gastonia on September 22nd.  The child's father said he took off running and he (the father) couldn't keep up.  Multiple police and other agencies conducted a days-long search for the child.  His body was found near a bridge on the Old Dallas Highway the following Thursday. 


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