Nov. 29 (UPI) -- A 6-year-old North Carolina boy whose body was found in a creek days after he went missing likely died by drowning, an autopsy released Thursday indicated.
The Mecklenburg County Medical Examiner said Maddox Ritch's body also showed signs of a possible animal attack on his neck, though there were no other signs of trauma or broken bones. Because of the damage from animals and decomposition, the coroner said the autopsy cannot be conclusive.
Searchers found the boy's body Sept. 27, six days after he vanished while at Rankin Lake Park with his father, Ian Ritch. Ritch said Maddox ran away and he couldn't catch up because of neuropathy in his feet due to diabetes.
"We were walking on a track around the lake. He just decided to take off from me and I let him go a little bit because he likes running," Ritch said. "He just got a little too far away from me before I could catch up to him."
The search was complicated because Maddox had autism and was unable to speak.
Gastonia police said they don't intend to file criminal charges in relation to Maddox's death.
"We appreciate everyone's patience and support while we worked to uncover every piece of evidence available to bring our death investigation to this conclusion. I ask for continued prayers for Maddox's family and everyone touched by this child's tragic death," Gastonia police Chief Robert Helton said in a statement Thursday. "We appreciate our many law enforcement, search and rescue partners, and countless others who assisted us in the search for Maddox. We do not anticipate any criminal charges being filed in connection with the investigation."