CHARLOTTE, NC (FOX 46 WJZY) — The father of 6-year-old Maddox Ritch wrote an emotional Facebook post following the heartbreaking discovery of his son’s body after a six-day long search for the autistic and nonverbal little boy. 

“First I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to everyone who took part in searching for my sweet lil’ buddy. I truly appreciate everything everyone did to find him,” Ian Ritch wrote. 

Ritch went on to say that Maddox will be the only child he will ever have. 

“I wasn’t so worried about him when all this started on Saturday because I expected to find him right off. Over time, I got more and more scared and worried. Once Sunday morning came that’s when it had me thinking I had something to worry about,” Ritch explained in his post. 

A body that is believed to be Maddox Ritch was discovered around 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 27 in Long Creek, off of Marietta Street and Old Dallas Highway in Gastonia. 

Related: Body found in Gastonia believed to be missing 6-year-old Maddox Ritch 

“Now, today I found out I’m not a dad anymore. I had big plans with my son. I wanted us to go fishing, play ball, go camping. I wanted to be his hero. I wanted him to say I was more than Superman or Batman to him. I wanted people to ask him who his hero is and him say my daddy,” Ritch wrote. “Now, I’m no hero. I couldn’t save him or protect him at all. I would give anything to go back and save him.”

Authorities held a news conference on Thursday where they said that the body of who they believe to be Maddox was found partially submerged in Long Creek. They would not go into details on the condition of the body other than that it was “camouflaged.” 

“While a lot of people don’t believe anything I have said in the past, believe this. From this moment on for the rest of my life I will live with the guilt of not being there to save my son. The most important person in my life. So when everyone else gets to go back to their normal lives remember that I will never be the same man again. I will now and forever be a broken man until I take my last breath,” Ritch wrote. 

The body believed to be Maddox has been taken to the Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy. FOX 46 will provide the information from that autopsy as soon as it becomes available.

The Gastonia Police Department continues to ask those who may have been at the park Saturday, Sept. 22 to please contact them. 

To read Ian Ritch’s full post on Facebook, click here: