The day Maddox Ritch disappeared in North Carolina's Rankin Lake Park, he was spotted running toward the park’s office, a witness said.
Brooke Sheppard was taking a walk around the lake with her mother and daughter when she crossed paths with a blond little boy who was wearing an orange T-shirt last Saturday.
Sheppard’s mother tried talking to the child, who she figured was on his way back to whomever accompanied him to the park.
“I can remember her looking over and asking him, 'Hey buddy are you tired?’ because he had just been skipping, jogging, being a kid,” Sheppard told WBTV.
But the boy didn’t say anything back and continued on his way, as the group of women continued watching him, she said.
When she heard that a little boy had gone missing in the park, Sheppard said she knew it was the same child.
Sheppard said she has spoken with detectives and held out hope Maddox would be found until Thursday when investigators announced they had found the 6-year-old boy’s body in Long Creek.
The body was discovered less than a mile from where he had last been seen.
“My heart broke,” Sheppard said.
“I’m sure everybody else feels the same way," she said. "They felt like they knew him because they were searching so hard for him, and we all had high hopes of they’re going to find him, they’re going to find him."
Maddox’s funeral is on Friday, Oct. 5. He will be buried in private.
Police are still investigating Maddox's death. No suspects have been named in the case.