Autopsy: Missing North Carolina boy drowned accidentally

GASTONIA, N.C. – Authorities say a 6-year-old boy with autism who disappeared after running off in a North Carolina park died of accidental drowning.

The Gastonia Police Department said Thursday that a state medical examiner’s report found the cause of death for Maddox Ritch was consistent with drowning. It found no indication the death was anything other than accidental.

Police Chief Robert Helton said his office doesn’t expect to file criminal charges.

Maddox went missing while at a Gaston County park with his father Sept. 22. His body was found days later in a nearby creek.

The boy’s father, Ian Ritch, has said he lost sight of Maddox after the boy broke into a sprint and ran off.

“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,” Ian told reporters.

The father has said diabetic neuropathy made it hard for him to run after the boy.

“I had big plans with my son. I wanted us to go fishing play ball go camping. I wanted to be his hero,” he wrote. “I wanted him to say I was more than superman or batman to him. I wanted people to ask him who his hero is and him say my daddy. Now I’m no hero I couldn’t save him or protect him at all. I would give anything to go back and save him.”