What to Know
- A boy appeared in Newport, Kentucky, on Wednesday, claiming to be missing child Timmothy Pitzen
- Timmothy's disappearance has remained a mystery since his mother took him out of school and traveled to multiple Midwest water parks in 2011
- She was found dead of an apparent suicide in a Rockford motel room and had left a note that the boy was safe but would never be found
News that a missing Aurora, Illinois, boy may have been found more than seven years after he disappeared at the age of 6 sent shockwaves throughout the country.
Timmothy Pitzen's case has been a mystery since 2011, when police found the boy's mother dead of an apparent suicide along with a note saying her son was safe and in someone's care, but that he would never be found.
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Many questions still remain as the latest development in the case brought the investigation back into headlines.
Here's what we know about the case so far.
IS IT HIM?
A 14-year-old appeared in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area on Wednesday, claiming to be missing child Timmothy Pitzen, but a DNA test showed the boy in question was not actually the missing child, according to the FBI.
"A local investigation continues into this person's true identity," police said in a release.
Newport, Kentucky police told an NBC affiliate station in the area that the person claiming to be Pitzen is actually 23-year-old Brian Michael Rini of Medina, Ohio. Further information on him was not immediately available.
HOW WAS HE FOUND?
A man claiming to be a 14-year-old boy was spotted standing near an intersection in Newport, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. He told witnesses that he was the boy missing from Illinois.
He said he had slipped away from two kidnappers who had held him for the past seven years, the police report on the incident states. He told investigators he had escaped an unknown Red Roof Inn, according to the police report, and "kept running across a bridge" into Kentucky.
"Timothy [sic] described the two kidnappers as two male, whites, body-builder type build," the police report states. "One had black curly hair, Mt. Dew shirt and jeans & has a spider web tattoo on his neck. The other was short in stature and had a snake tattoo on his arms."
The kidnappers' vehicle, according to the report, was described by Timmothy to officers as a newer model Ford SUV with unknown Wisconsin plates and a second row. The Ford is white with yellow transfer paint and a dent on the left back bumper, the report states.
All surrounding police agencies with Red Roof Inns in their jursidictions were contacted and nothing was found, according to the report. The FBI confirmed he was in safe custody but did not give an update on his condition.
WHAT HAPPENED WHEN TIMMOTHY WENT MISSING?
Originally from Aurora, Illinois, Timmothy's disappearance has remained a mystery since Amy Fry-Pitzen took her son out of school and traveled to multiple Midwest water parks before she was found dead of an apparent suicide in a Rockford motel room on May 14, 2011. A note left behind in the motel room said that Timmothy was safe and in someone's care, but that he would never be found.
The pair went missing on May 11 when the mother checked her son out of his elementary school. Over the next two days, the pair visited the Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, the Key Lime Cove Resort in Gurnee, and the Kalahari Resort.
The last time the pair were seen together was at the Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells.
The 43-year-old mother's body was found a motel room on May 14. Authorities said she took her own life.
New information from authorities indicates that in the hours before her death, Amy Fry-Pitzen visited a Family Dollar store, in Winnebago, Illinois, and purchased a pen, paper and envelopes. When she checked into the Rockford Inn at 11:15 p.m., her son was not with her, authorities said.
A note left behind in the hotel room indicated that her son was in someone's care, but it did not identify who that was.
A 2004 Ford Expedition SUV Fry-Pitzen was driving the day she took Timmothy out of school was found in a parking lot on May 14. Police said the vehicle was "visibly dirty" and had tall grass or weeds underneath the body.
Police evidence technicians found a "concerning amount of blood" in the backseat belonging to Timmothy, but family members told officers it could be from a bloody nose the boy suffered in the past year or so. Also, the knife with which Fry-Pitzen took her life only had her blood on it, according to police.
Based on a cellphone call Fry-Pitzen made May 13, police concluded that the last place Timmothy and his mother were together was in the I-88 and I-39 corridors in the Dixon/Rock Falls/Sterling area. The call was made about 5 miles northwest of Sterling, Illinois, near Route 40, police said.
Police also discovered via I-Pass records that Fry-Pitzen took two trips to the Dixon/Rock Falls/Sterling area in the winter that family members "cannot explain." One trip was Feb. 18, 2011, the other on March 20.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Pitzen is the only child missing from west suburban Aurora.
Fry-Pitzen's cell phone, I-Pass and the clothing she was seen wearing on other surveillance videos, as well as Timmothy’s Spider-Man backpack and his toys from the SUV, remained missing years after the boy disappeared, according to police.
WHAT DOES THE FAMILY SAY?
The family of missing Aurora boy Timmothy Pitzen urged the public to "reserve all judgement and pray" for a man who falsely claimed he was the child who disappeared from the Illinois town more than seven years ago.
"Unfortunately this child is not our beloved Timmothy," Kara Jacobs, Timmothy's aunt, said. "We know you are out there somewhere Tim and we will never stop looking for you."
Alana Anderson, Pitzen’s grandmother, said she feels "so sorry for the young man who's obviously had a horrible time and felt the need to say he was someone else."
"I was very close to Tim. He spent a lot of time here," Anderson said. "The last morning I had, he crawled in bed with me and told me I was the best grandma in the whole wide world. He's a wonderful boy, and I hope he has the strength and personality to do whatever he needs to do to find us. My prayer has always been that when he was old enough he would find us if we couldn't find him."
The last time she saw her grandson he was just over 6 years old.
WHAT HAPPENED IN THE CASE BEFORE NOW?
The last boost in the case came in 2014, when a woman in the northern Illinois town of Rockton contacted police saying she saw a boy that resembled Timmothy at her garage sale, according to the Chicago Tribune. The tip came after the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children released an age-progression image showing what Timmothy would have looked like at the age of 9. It remained unclear if the boy the woman saw was in fact Timmothy.
In August of 2011, officials uncovered a secret email account Amy Fry-Pitzen apparently set up. Officers said they retrieved 34 emails from the account, which was separate from a Yahoo email both she and her husband had access to. Police later revealed the account was "mostly spam" but were unable to recover deleted emails because Yahoo did not maintain those records.
Six months after the child disappeared, detectives released new surveillance video and forensic information from the vehicle they discovered the day Fry-Pitzen was found dead.
A series of surveillance video that was released months after his disappearance showed Fry-Pitzen at the Kalahari Resort with Timmothy standing at a checkout counter; another from Key Lime Cove showed the two walking down a hallway, and another showed Fry-Pitzen entering and leaving a convenience store alone.
New forensic evidence indicated the SUV they were in was parked near "a grassy meadow or field to a spot that is nearly treeless," authorities said, citing tests on plants and dirt taken from her SUV.
"There are birch and oak trees in the general area but not directly over or at the spot where the SUV stopped," police said in a statement. "Both Queen Anne’s lace and black mustard plants grow in a row along the border of the field or the shoulder of the road."