Autopsy: 6-year-old Maddox Ritch died from 'probable drowning'

An autopsy report reveals Maddox Ritch, the 6-year-old boy with autism who was discovered in a Gaston County creek this September, died from 'probable drowning' before being attacked by animals.

The child's body was recovered from a creek in Gaston County on Sept. 29, 2018. Authorities said his body was recovered following an extensive search operation for many days which began after the child disappeared from the sight of his father and a companion while walking in a nearby park on the afternoon of Sept. 22.

The location where Maddox was found was described as an 'eddy pool' in a creek. The body was reportedly submerged with overlying vegetation debris. An available medical record listed a medical history of autism spectrum disorder and indicated Maddox was non-verbal.

Related: Funeral services to be held Friday for Maddox Ritch

According to the autopsy report, Maddox had several superficial facial wounds, as well as one large wound, over the lower face and upper neck. The body also had shallow wounds in the lower abdomen and pelvis, all consistent with 'postmortem animal predation,' the report explains.

The report states due to the limits placed on 'postmortem examination by decomposition' and the 'loss of soft tissues around the lower face and neck,' the exam itself cannot be conclusive. The report states the findings are not inconsistent with drowning.

Related: Maddox Ritch was in Rankin Lake Park before disappearance, police say

The report said with the investigative information given at this time, there is no indication other than an accidental drowning and seems reasonable to conclude that is the likely cause of Maddox's death.

"Should future investigative findings impact this determination of cause or manner of death, an addendum will be made," the report said.

"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," said Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton in a written statement, released on 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."