There is something so tragic but captivating about unsolved missing children cases. There are some notorious cases that, even after years and decades have passed, the public still knows the names and faces of these missing children.
There is Etan Patz, the first missing child to have their photo printed on the side of a carton of milk in 1979. Anthonette Christine Cayedito, the kind-hearted little girl was snatched from her doorstep by someone claiming to be the child’s uncle.
The three-year-old William Tyrrell disappeared from his grandmother’s yard in Kendall, New South Wales, in 2014. The case of Timmothy Pitzen’s case is yet another tragic missing child case.
Timmothy disappeared in a rather unusual way. His mother took him on a trip but what happened on that trip remains a mystery. A note that Timmothy would never be found is all that remains from his case.
For eleven years, Timmothy Pitzen has remained hidden, leading us to ask, “What really happened to Timmothy Pitzen?” Will we ever learn the whereabouts of the now teenage boy?
Timmothy Pitzen was born in Aurora, Illinois, on October 18, 2004. He was the only child of his parents, James Pitzen and Amy Fry-Pitzen. On May 11, 2011, James Pitzen dropped his 6-year-old son Timmothy off at his elementary school, like any other day.
The first sign of trouble began when at the end of the school day, James went to pick up Timmothy Pitzen, but the school told him he wasn’t there. The school said that Timmothy’s mother, Amy, came and picked their son up less than an hour after he was dropped off.
Timmothy Pitzen’s mother had said there was a “family emergency,” and he was allowed to leave with his mother. James was confused because there was no family emergency, and he had no clue that Amy had picked Timmothy Pitzen up early, and he hadn’t been at school all day.
Where Are Amy and Timmothy Pitzen?
Timmothy Pitzen’s parents were experiencing some marital troubles that stemmed from James learning that Amy was still speaking to one of her ex-husbands, and James thought she was still in love with her ex. James tried calling his wife, Amy, but she never answered her cell phone.
When he still couldn’t contact her that night, and no members of her family or friends could reach Amy, James assumed Amy was mad at him and took Timmothy with her for some time away from the house. The two fought, and according to James, he said something to Amy along the lines of “It is either him or me, pick one. Just know that if you choose him, I will make sure you will not receive custody of Timmothy and won’t see him again.”
These were harsh words, and it is likely they hurt Amy deeply. This is why James assumed that Amy was mad at him and decided to ditch school with their son, and things were fine. When Timmothy Pitzen and his mother did not return the following day, the police were called.
Two days later, on May 13, 2011, Amy called several family members, including her mother and her brother-in-law, to say that she and Timmothy were safe and not at risk or in danger. Timmothy Pitzen could be heard in the background doing what a 6-year-old does, complaining that he was hungry.
It was noted that Timmothy Pitzen did not sound in distress or like Amy was starving him; it was a normal kid saying, “mom, I’m hungry.” Amy Fry-Pitzen did not contact her husband when she made these calls.
On May 14, 2011, a housekeeper at the Rockford Inn in Rockford, Illinois, entered the Pitzens’ room and found her body with a note. Amy appeared to have committed suicide and was said to have slashed her own wrists and throat, as well as taken a lethal dose of antihistamines.
Timmothy Pitzen was not however in the room when his mother’s body was recovered. In the suicide note Amy left with her body, she apologized for the mess and said that Timmothy Pitzen was “safe with people who would love and care for him but would never be found”.
She was right. Timmothy would be 18 this year and has never been found. Is Timmothy Pitzen dead or being cared for by another family in secret?
What Happened During Those Crucial Days?
According to police, Amy and Timmothy Pitzen took their car to a repair shop around 10:00am on May 11. One of the auto shop employees said he drove Timmothy Pitzen and his mother to a local zoo while the car was being serviced.
Amy picked him up at 3:00pm that afternoon, and Amy took Timmothy Pitzen to the KeyLime Cove Resort (Now known as the Great Wolf Lodge Waterpark) in Gurnee, Illinois. The two were seen on security footage checking into the resort and staying one night.
On May 12, 2011, Timmothy Pitzen drove with his mother to the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin; like KeyLime, Kalahari was a waterpark resort. The pair were seen on security footage checking out of the resort on May 13, 2011, at 10:00am.
Security cameras captured footage of Amy, alone, buying stationary at a Family Dollar store in Winnebago, Illinois, before 7:30pm the evening of May 13. At 8:00pm, Amy was seen shopping at a local grocery store, and again, Timmothy Pitzen was nowhere to be seen.
Along with the security tapes of Timmothy Pitzen and his mother, the police recovered the knife Amy Fry-Pitzen used to kill herself, but it only had her blood on it. Amy’s car was searched; there was, as police said, “a concerning amount” of blood in the seat in which Timothy Pitzen usually sat.
While that seemed damning, and it looked like Timmothy was killed in the vehicle, this was inconclusive. His family members told police that the blood stains were from a month earlier and Timmothy was prone to frequent and messy nosebleeds.
Soil, pieces of weeds, grass, and dirt were collected from underneath the car’s rear bumper and were analyzed. Forensic investigators determined that Amy had stopped her vehicle for an unknown period of time on the shoulder of a dirt road in northwestern Illinois, but the exact location was not identified.
Cell phone records indicate that Amy’s calls to her mother and brother-in-law occurred near Stirling, Illinois, near Route 40. Her phone was recovered along a road on Route 78 north of Mount Carroll, Illinois, in 2013.
A Crime in Search of a Motive
A motive has not been officially linked with the disappearance of Timmothy Pitzen, but there are some possible hints at why he disappeared. Amy suffered from depression and had attempted suicide two times in the past.
When James told her “It is either him or me. Pick one. Just know that if you choose him, I will make sure you will not receive custody of Timmothy and won’t see him again” she knew that if the two went to court for custody over Timmothy Pitzen, James would win, because the judge would say she was an unfit mother due to her known depression and multiple suicide attempts.
When Amy called her brother-in-law from the road, he said that she stated, “Timmothy is mine,” but he didn’t find it odd at the time. That statement could indicate that Amy took Timmothy Pitzen on the run because she wanted to keep him away from her fourth husband, James.
The family strongly believes that Amy did not kill Timmothy and loved him dearly. Timmothy’s birth was a bright spot in Amy’s life, and she was said to have found a reason to live for her little boy.
The suicide note found with Amy’s body and a second letter she sent to her mother said that Timmothy Pitzen was safe and cared for but would never be found. This has led many to believe that Amy took Timmothy Pitzen and gave him to an Amish family based on the large Amish population in the areas she traveled.
Those who believe in the Amish theory claim that giving Timmothy Pitzen to an Amish family to raise as their own was in an effort to avoid his discovery. The Amish are known for their distrust of non-Amish people, being very secretive about parts of their community, and not using electronics, which meant they wouldn’t hear any news reports about the disappearance of Timmothy Pitzen. It is important to realize however that his is a theory, and the family doesn’t consider it realistic.
In 2019, a person called the police in Newport, Kentucky, about a young man who approached her and said his name was Timmothy Pitzen. The boy was dirty, had bruises on his face, and said he “just wanted to go home”.
The person claiming to be Timmothy Pitzen said he was 14 years old and had just escaped from a hotel room where two men had been holding him for a long time. He also claimed to have been sexually and physically abused in captivity for years.
The family was alerted and came to Kentucky, while Timmothy’s identity was confirmed. The young man refused to have his fingerprints taken but let the FBI swab his cheek for DNA testing.
The test revealed that the man was not Timmothy Pitzen but a 23-year-old man from Ohio named Brian Michael Rini. Shockingly, this was not the first time Rini had identified himself as a child sex trafficking victim; he had done it twice before.
Rini told police when he was confronted about his true identity that he “watched a story about the child on 20/20 and wanted to get away from his own family.” Rini has a history of mental illness and was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and bipolar disorder.
Rini told police that he pretended to be Timmothy because he wished his father was like James Pitzen. Someone who would worry when their son went missing, unlike his father, who would just keep drinking. Rini pleaded guilty to aggravated identity theft, and part of his plea agreement required the charges he had for lying to the FBI were dismissed. Nonetheless, Rini was sentenced to a two-year stay in federal prison for the hoax.
The investigation into the disappearance of Timmothy Pitzen is now in its eleventh year, and the case remains cold to this day. This year, Timmothy Pitzen will be turning 17 years old.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) released an age progression image of what Timmothy would look like back in 2021. The Pitzen and Fry families believe that Timmothy is alive somewhere and hope he makes contact with them at some point.
James Pitzen had told reports since Amy’s body was found that he couldn’t understand why Timmothy hadn’t called 911 or even his parent’s cell phone number, which he knew. Likely, Timmothy Pitzen died back in 2011 either by accident or at the hands of his mother, and just like the suicide note said, he has never been found.
Top Image: Timmothy Pitzen vanished with his mother in 2011, and has never been seen since. Source: mtkang / Adobe Stock.