According to official sources, Maddox Ritch, the little boy with autism who went missing in North Carolina died from accidental drowning.
The 6-year-old disappeared on September 22, 2018, while walking through the park with his father, Ian Ritch, who lost sight of him after he took off running after a jogger.
As reported by WBTV, the cause of death was determined by the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner's Office after months of speculation.
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NO EVIDENCE OF FOUL PLAY
According to the autopsy, there was no evidence of physical trauma and Maddox appeared to be well-developed and properly nourished.
"We do not antecipate any criminal charges being filed."
His body was found by a searcher, partially submerged in a creek over a mile away from Rankin Lake Park, in Gastonia, where he was last seen by his father.
LESIONS APPEARED AFTER DEATH
Maddox was still wearing the same clothing that Ian reported to the police, including the red t-shirt saying 'I'm the man.'
The Medical Examiner's Office found, however, several lesions on the boy's body, such as multiple wounds on his face, neck, arms, abdomen and pelvis, which were ruled out as 'postmortem animal predation.'
All the tests came back normal, including X-rays and blood samples, leading to the conclusion that the 6-year-old's death was a result of accidental drowning.
HELPING THE SEARCH TEAMS
Maddox was non-verbal, so he wasn't able to communicate with other people who saw him at the park the day he disappeared, including Brooke Sheppard, who remembers their encounter while walking with her mother and daughter.
She recalled seeing Maddox come up behind them, panting as if he had just run a marathon. They asked him if he was tired but he didn't answer; instead, he ran towards the park office.
The three women later discovered that people were looking for a boy in a red t-shirt and immediately knew it was Maddox. Authorities, family and volunteers looked for the 6-yeard-old for five whole days but, sadly, the story didn't have a happy ending.