GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) – Maddox Ritch, the boy found dead near a Gastonia park following a 6-day-long massive search, died of probable drowning, according to autopsy results released Thursday.

The autopsy, conducted by the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office, also noted multiple wounds to Maddox’s upper neck likely from an animal attack.

Nothing abnormal was revealed in the boy’s toxicology report, also released to WBTV Thursday. Maddox’s body was normally developed and nourished, according to the autopsy, and he was wearing the clothing his dad reported last seeing him in: a red T-shirt that read, “I’M THE MAN.”

There was no evidence of trauma or broken bones, the autopsy states.

Ritch went missing at Ranklin Lake Park in Gastonia on Saturday, September 22 while with his dad and his father’s girlfriend. Six days later, on Thursday, September 22, little Maddox’s body was found at Long Creek.

The news broke hearts across the area. Many community members were emotionally invested in Maddox’s search.

The intense 6-day search covered land, water, drainage pipes and everything in between. “Hundreds of people searched tirelessly for this child and our work continues to answer every question we can about his tragic death,” Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton said.

The boy’s father, Ian Ritch, said Maddox was walking in front of him on a track around the lake park when Maddox took off running behind a jogger. Ian said after Maddox was farther ahead, he took off running after the boy but lost sight of him.

Police confirmed Maddox was at the park the day he disappeared. The confirmation answered the question many people’s minds.

The FBI continued to plead with the public, asking anyone who was a the park that day to come forward and speak with detectives.

Brooke Sheppard was one of the people who says she saw Maddox at the park that day.

Sheppard says she was walking around the lake with her mom and daughter when Maddox came up behind them. She says her mom tried to the talk to the boy, who we later learned had autism and was nonverbal.

“I can remember her looking over and asking him ‘hey buddy are you tired?’ because he had just been skipping, jogging, being a kid,” Sheppard said.

Sheppard said he didn’t say anything back, and they kept an eye on him as he ran toward the park office.

They figured he was on his way back to his parents, or whoever he came with, but later that day, when they heard people were looking for a little boy with blonde hair and an orange shirt, she just knew.

“I knew immediately that was him, because I can remember seeing him, and then he was in front of me. I can just remember it to a T,” Sheppard said.

“All of us was together. Everything was great and then a jogger passed by and as he was jogging past us, that’s when Maddox started to jog out behind him,” the boy’s father said in an interview with CBS News Correspondent David Begnaud.

“So I usually just give him a little space and let him do his thing and once we got so far, he took off from me running and I tried to catch him. And I just never could catch up with him,” Ian continued.

“He had too much of a head start on me.”

Maddox was laid to rest on October 4 at Raymer-Kepner Funeral Home in Huntersville.

“Your heartfelt perseverance through this very difficult time will never be forgotten,” Maddox’s aunt, Delores Lindley, said through tears.

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