Ian Ritch, the father of 6-year-old Maddox says he started panicking when his autistic son ran too far ahead of him in a North Carolina park. Maddox has not been seen since.
The boy, who is considered non-verbal, got too far ahead of Ian during a walk in the Rankin Lake Park on Saturday, and disappeared from view.
“We were walking on a track around the lake and he decided to take off from me. … I didn’t think nothing of it and he got a little too far away from me,” Ian Ritch told “Good Morning America” in an exclusive interview Wednesday. “As soon as I got to the point where I couldn’t see him anymore, I started panicking. I couldn’t see him anywhere.”
A search for Maddox has been taking place around the clock ever since. The FBI, Gastonia Police Department, Gastonia Fire Department have conducted searches using Maddox’s parents voice on a loudspeaker, and have even drained a lake.
Ian said he continues to be eaten by guilt over letting his son get out of his sight.
Ian said he’s felt regret since the moment his son went missing, but “everybody looks at you as a monster.”
“It’s hard to sleep. I feel guilty because I can go to a house and lay down on the bed,” Ian said, “and he’s out there in the woods sleeping on the ground and that’s very upsetting.”
Maddox has blond hair and blue eyes, weighs 45 pounds and is 4 feet tall, police said. He was wearing black shorts, closed-toe sandals and an orange T-shirt that reads “I am the Man” at the time he went missing, according to police.