Authorities held a news conference around 4 p.m. Thursday where they said that the body of who they believe to be Maddox Ritch was found partially submerged in Long Creek.
Earlier Thursday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Charlotte tweeted, "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".
Last Saturday, Maddox Ritch's father said the boy ran off from him and a friend at the park and disappeared before he could catch up to him.
According to Ritch, Maddox was about 25 feet to 30 feet (7 meters to 9 meters) away before he broke into a sprint just as a jogger passed them. Ritch said his son often ran ahead of him, and then would slow down and wait for him to catch up. He said Maddox took off running in the opposite direction of his father and his friend Saturday at Rankin Lake Park.
"I could see him until a certain point, Ian said, "He got out of my view and that's when I never seen him again".
Ian went on to say, "Once sunday morning came thats when it startes me thinking i had something to worry about".
Police investigators are trying to talk to people who may have been at the park Saturday when 6-year-old Maddox Ritch was reported missing. After an hour, Ritch called 911, saying he delayed that call because he thought he would find his son and there was no reason to call police. "We prayed that this was not going to be the result of this thing", one unidentified woman, a neighbor, said in a WBTV report.
The 6-year-old with blond hair and bright blue eyes had a wide, infectious smile. Maddox was last seen wearing an orange T-shirt with the words "I am the man", along with black shorts and closed-toe sandals.
The FBI's Underwater Search and Evidence Response Team was in the water earlier Thursday at Rankin Lake Park when they made the devastating discovery. He said the area had been searched previously by drones, all-terrain vehicles and on foot. It's unclear how he died, authorities said. "Please call the tip line".
"He likes running", Ritch said.
She said that he loved the park, bouncy balls and his teddy bear.
"It didn't look as though, they were that concerned", Foxx said of the boy's father and his girlfriend, who was with him at the park.
"I'm not eating. I'm not sleeping".
"Hearing about this, it makes me want to go to my nieces and nephews and hug them as tight as I can, and tell them how much I love them", Adams said. Helton said it's paramount for anyone who was at the park to contact police immediately.
Hundreds of officers were involved in the search for Maddox. "Our investigators, our searchers, this is not the end that we hoped for".
"No piece of information is too small".