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Autistic boy goes missing from park in North Carolina while walking around lake with parents

The New York Daily News - 9/24/2018

Sept. 24--An exhaustive search is underway in North Carolina after a 6-year-old autistic boy described as nonverbal disappeared over the weekend.

Little Maddox Ritch was last seen at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia at about 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

"They were walking around the lake," Gastonia spokeswoman Rachel Bagley told WSOC. "They got around to the back side of the lake. He started running, according to the parents, and when they started running after him, they lost sight of him, and no one has seen him ever since."

The FBI has joined local and state agencies in the search. More than 100 people are combing through 1,400 acres near and around the park, which will remain closed to the public until further notice.

"We're going to explore all possibilities, including abduction," FBI Special Agent Jason Kaplan told ABC News, "but we're also going to make sure we search every inch of land around here to make sure that he's not simply lost."

Kaplan told the Gaston Gazette that it is not "uncommon" for special needs kids to go missing.

"We deal with local resources, sometimes we talk with specialists and generally the family is part of that resource, and the most useful, because they let us know what the child may respond to," he told the paper.

Maddox was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt with the words "I am the man" and black shorts. Anyone who was at the park on Saturday and might have seen Maddox should contact the special tip line at (704) 869-1075.

"We know a lot of people were in the park and we have spoken to many of them, but we have not spoken to everyone," the Gastonia Police Department wrote on its Facebook page. "No piece of information is too small. Something you may think is insignificant could be helpful to our case."

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