Eyewitness Says Maddox Ritch Was 'Skipping, Jogging' Before Sudden Disappearance

Maddox Ritch Disappearance Eyewitness New Details
Source: Gastonia Police Department

Feb. 25 2019, Updated 11:39 a.m. ET

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Four days after the body of 6-year-old autistic boy, Maddox Ritch, was found in North Carolina, a female eyewitness has come forward with new details.

Brooke Sheppard told WBTV that she stopped by Gastonia's Rankin Lake Park on September 22, the day Ritch disappeared, for a church picnic.

She as with her mother and daughter when she saw the boy alone in the park.

"I can remember my mother looking over and asking him, 'Hey buddy, are you tired?' because he had just been skipping, jogging, being a kid," Sheppard said.

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Ritch — who had limited verbal skills — reportedly did not reply and just ran away. Sheppard assume he ran off to meet his guardian, but as soon as she heard the news of the disappearance, she knew it was him.

"I knew immediately that was him because I can remember seeing him … I can just remember it to a T," Sheppard said. readers know Ritch was enjoying a casual day with his father and an unidentified friend at Ranking Lake Park on September 22. The three were playing around when suddenly Rich ran off, prompting his dad to lose sight of him and alert police.

"I tried to find him. I don't know where he went. Usually when he takes off running he'll slow down and stop for me to catch up with him. This time he never stopped," Ritch's heartbroken dad told PEOPLE after the horrific incident.

While he and the rest of the family had hope that police would find Ritch alive and well, the boy's body was found in about two or three feet of water in Long Creek this past Thursday.

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"With heavy hearts we announce a body believed to be 6-year-old Maddox Ritch was found at approximately 1 p.m. off of Marietta Street/Old Dallas Highway in Gastonia. Maddox's parents have been notified of the discovery. The investigation is ongoing," tweeted FBI Charlotte on September 27.

Stay with for updates.

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