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The father of Maddox Ritch, the 6-year-old North Carolina boy who went missing on Saturday and whose body is believed to have been found, addressed his grief in an emotional Facebook post on Thursday night.
Maddox disappeared during a trip with his father, Ian Ritch, to Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia, North Carolina. The young boy, who has autism and is nonverbal, had chased after a jogger, Ritch said.
A search that involved the FBI, along with two dozen other agencies, uncovered a body believed to be Maddox's in a creek near the park on Thursday afternoon.
"(T)oday I found out I'm not a dad anymore," Ritch wrote on Facebook. "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.' Now I'm no hero, I couldn't save him or protect him at all."
Ritch described how the loss of his only child changed his life.
"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," he continued. "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 hopes his story can serve as a cautionary tale and a reminder to all parents to make the most of their time with their children.
"Just please hug your children tighter and please don't make my mistake and let them get too far away from you," he wrote. "Do everything you can with your children because I won't get the chance to do anything with mine."