GASTON COUNTY, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) - For the first time, the mother of a missing 6-year-old boy from Gastonia addressed the public.
Carrie Ritch spoke at a press conference Tuesday, Sept. 25, visibly crying and shaking as she begged for the safe return of her son.
"Maddox is my whole world and my reason for living,” Carrie said.
Maddox hasn’t been seen since Saturday afternoon at Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia where he was reportedly with his father and another adult.
On Tuesday, officials said Maddox’s father was at the park retracing his steps.
“It’s been nearly 75 agonizing hours since 6-year-old Maddox Ritch disappeared,” Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton said. “We do not want another hour to pass without finding this child and bringing him home. All the help has been humbling.”
Hundreds of investigators spreading their search beyond the park, into the woods toward Interstate-85 and Long Creek.
The FBI is now offering a $10,000 reward for information that will help them find Maddox. Investigators also warned against spreading false rumors that impede on their search for the little autistic boy.
Do not spread rumors on social media about the search for Maddox Ritch. Information is being released by our official channels. Don't be responsible for redirecting our efforts away from where they need to be.... we should all unite to #FindMaddox.— FBI Charlotte (@FBICharlotte) September 25, 2018
"Instead of having our detectives investigating or search because they believe something has changed. That's probably the least damaging. The more damaging is to a mother and father who are desperate to get any information about their child,” a representative for the FBI said.
Maddox is described as 4'0" tall , weighing 45 pounds with blonde hair. He has non-verbal autism, and therefore may not respond to shouting or yelling out his name.
Authorities have also released photos that show what Maddox was last seen wearing: an orange t-shirt with writing "I am the man" on it, with black shorts with a white stripe.
On Tuesday night, Gaston County authorities announced that Rankin Lake Park will remain closed to the public until further notice, and search crews will be patrolling the area overnight on foot and ATVs.
Drones will also continue their work in the coming hours.
Investigators said they have received additional tip calls since the news conference Tuesday afternoon from individuals who were at the park on Saturday.
They said they have received at least 150 leads through their tip line. If you have any information, you’re asked to call (704) 869-1075.
You can watch Tuesday's press conference below: