A Mother’s Deceit: What Happened to Timmothy Pitzen?

School surveillance showing Amy & Timmothy (Photo provided by APD)

After leaving Timmothy?s school, Amy drove 30 miles east to La Grange, Illinois. Once there, she took her Expedition to an auto repair shop and dropped it off for maintenance. Rather than sit around and wait for the work to be completed, Amy had an employee of the shop drop her and Timmothy off at the nearby Brookfield Zoo. They spent hours going through all the exhibits at the zoo, then returned to pick up the Expedition around 3:00 pm.

Jim Pitzen arrived at Timmothy?s school that afternoon to pick him up and was confused when he learned Amy had signed him out that morning. He had seen his wife before she went to work that morning and everything had been normal; there was certainly no family emergency. He frantically tried to get in touch with Amy, but got her voicemail. Unsure what to do, Jim went home. He kept calling Amy?s phone, hoping that she would soon pull in the driveway with a good explanation.

Amy, however, had no intention of going home. From the auto repair shop, she drove 45 miles north to the Key Lime Cove Indoor Water Park and Resort in Gurnee, Illinois. She and Timmothy stayed there Wednesday night and checked out Thursday morning. Next, the pair drove 170 miles to Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin and checked into the Kalahari Resort for the night. They checked out the following morning at 10:10 am, and Amy finally called her mother and told her that she and Timmothy were fine. She insisted that she just needed to get away from everyone for a day or two, and would return home soon. She continued to ignore Jim?s phone calls, but she did call her brother-in-law and let him talk to Timmothy so he would know the child was safe.

Amy checked into a hotel in Rockford, Illinois late Friday night, but Timmothy was not with her. The following day, hotel staff made a gruesome find in her room; Amy had killed herself. There was no sign of Timmothy, and none of his belongings were found in the room. Also missing were Amy?s cell phone and the clothing she had been wearing when she picked Timmothy up from school: brown Capri pants, a white or light pink shirt, and sandals. Amy did leave a suicide note, but it only raised more questions. She wrote that Timmothy was ?with people who love him and will care for him?you?ll never find him.?

When Jim Pitzen learned his wife had committed suicide and no one knew where Timmothy was, he was shocked. He had reported both of them missing on Thursday morning, but felt better after learning that some family members had spoken to Amy. Now he struggled to comprehend what she had done.

Timmothy (Photo from Little Boy Lost FB page)

Amy had suffered from depression in the past, but was taking medication for it and seemed to be doing well. She had attempted suicide at least once before, but had never actually harmed herself. When she was married to her second husband she parked on some train tracks after they had an argument. She said she was going to let the train hit her, but she drove off before a train came along and checked herself into a psychiatric hospital for a week. She felt better after being placed on an antidepressant, but it wasn?t enough to save the marriage.

Amy hadn?t been lucky in love; Jim was her fourth husband. Timmothy was her first child, though, and she loved being a mother. Jim described her as being a wonderful mother who was completely devoted to her son, but their marriage had been rocky. Jim acknowledged that they had been arguing, especially after Amy went on a cruise without him, but they hadn?t taken any steps towards divorce. Amy had been the one to mention the possibility of a separation, but then seemed to back off the idea. She was terrified that she would lose custody of Timmothy if the couple did divorce; she believed a judge would give Jim custody due to her mental problems. She made it clear she was not going to allow her son to be taken away from her.

Police spoke with Jim about the possibility that Amy might have killed Timmothy before she killed herself, but he refused to believe she was capable of such an act. Her friends and family agreed with him. They all believed that, as she said in her suicide note, Amy had left Timmothy with people where he would be safe. Now they just had to find him.

Investigators were somewhat optimistic when they reviewed Amy?s credit card purchases. At 11:15 am on Thursday, Amy purchased children?s clothing and toys from a store in Racine, Wisconsin. None of these items had been found in the Ford or in her hotel room. Also missing was Timmothy?s Spiderman backpack and the booster seat he used in the car. It was possible she left these items with the people who had Timmothy.

A massive search for Timmothy was launched, with investigators from Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa all trying to find him. Amy?s last cell phone calls on Friday had come from somewhere around Sterling, Illinois. They started the search there, plastering the area with pictures of Timmothy and making sure residents were aware of the missing child. They conducted grid searches of several areas, looking for any of Timmothy?s belongings. They soon learned that Timmothy?s booster seat hadn?t been in the Ford when Amy drove off with him; her mother still had it from the last time she had watched Timmothy. It didn?t eliminate the possibility that the boy had been left with someone, but did mean she hadn?t been too concerned with his safety while driving around.

Timmothy (Photo from ABC.com)

Jim and the rest of Timmothy?s relatives were hopeful that he would be found quickly. If Amy really did leave him with a friend or acquaintance, there was no way they would be able to ignore all the news coverage about the child. Jim made a public plea for whoever had his son to take him to the nearest police station so he could be reunited with his family. He held his breath every time the phone rang, hoping for the news that Timmothy was coming home.

As days turned to weeks, detectives became less optimistic about Timmothy?s chances of being alive. They had followed up on leads from as far away as Maine, but nothing led them to the missing child. Using Amy?s cell phone records and credit card statements, they tried to reconstruct her movements to give them a better idea about where she possibly could have taken Timmothy. Hours after using her phone in Sterling, Amy stopped at a food store in Winnebago, roughly 50 miles from Sterling. Timmothy was not with her at the food store. Without knowing where Amy might have stopped in between, investigators were left with an immense area to search.

Police felt even less optimistic about Timmothy?s chances of survival once forensic tests were completed on Amy?s Expedition. There was a significant amount of blood in the backseat that was identified as belonging to the child. Still, his family refused to believe the worst. Timmothy had suffered from nosebleeds in the past, and investigators were unable to determine how long the blood had been there. Jim was certain the blood had come from a nosebleed a few months earlier.

The Expedition had been very dirty when it was found, and soil and vegetation samples taken from it were sent for analysis. If detectives could pinpoint exactly where the soil and plant matter was from, it would help narrow down the search area. It was determined that Amy had driven the Ford onto a gravel road or shoulder, then backed it into an open field containing plants such as black mustard and Queen Anne?s lace. Detectives believe the location is most likely in northwestern Illinois.

Detectives were unable to find any connection between Amy and anyone in the Sterling area, and her friends and family didn?t believe she had been there before. No one understood what would have drawn her to the area. Investigators combed through Amy?s cell phone records, email account, and financial statements hoping for a clue, but found nothing. They did uncover a secret email account that no one knew she had, but computer technicians found nothing incriminating in it. Most of the 32 messages appeared to be spam.

Amy had an I-PASS account that was used to automatically pay for tolls on Illinois highways. Although the transponder was missing when police recovered her car, they were able to gain access to her account records. This allowed them to see all the tolls she had driven through, and they were shocked to discover that she had made two previous trips to the Dixon-Sterling area in the months prior to Timmothy?s disappearance. She had made the drive on February 18th and again on March 20th, each time spending four to five hours in the area before getting back on the highway to head home. Her family members had been completely unaware of these trips and could think of no explanation for them. It appeared that whatever Any had done with Timmothy, it hadn?t been spur of the moment. Perhaps she had arranged ahead of time to drop him off with someone in that area; perhaps she had been looking for a place to hide a body. Search teams were sent to more than two dozen sites in that area, but were unable to find anything related to the investigation.

Age progression of Timmothy (Photo provided by NCMEC)

In October 2013, a woman turned Amy?s missing cell phone over to police. She had found it discarded on the side of a road north of Mount Carroll, Illinois. Incredibly, she had found it two years earlier, but never connected it to the Pitzen case. When her brother was in need of a new cell phone, she remembered about the phone she found and gave it to him to use. As soon as he charged it up and saw the names on the contact list, he recognized it as being Amy?s phone. Unfortunately, the phone didn?t yield any new investigative leads. Although detectives continued to follow up on every lead they received, the case slowly went cold.

The case made headlines across the nation in April 2019, when a disheveled man in Newport, Kentucky went to police and told them that he was 14-year-old Timmothy Pitzen. He claimed that he had finally escaped from the two men who had been holding him captive in an Ohio Red Roof Inn. He gave detailed descriptions of the men and their SUV, and told police where they could be found. Two Aurora detectives were sent to interview the man, but they were skeptical of his story from the beginning. He refused to allow them to take his fingerprints, but did consent to a DNA test to confirm he was Timmothy. Newspapers around the country carried the story that, after eight long years, Timmothy may have been found. Unfortunately, he hadn?t.

It didn?t take long for detectives to confirm that the man was 23-year-old Brian Rini, a convicted felon from Medina, Ohio. His DNA was already on file due to his felony convictions, so it took less than a day to discredit his story. He had only been out of jail for a month after serving time for burglary. He told investigators that he claimed to be Timmothy because he had seen a television interview with Jim Pitzen and decided that he wanted a dad like that.

The Pitzen family was crushed. Brian didn?t seem to comprehend how much pain he brought to the family, who had already been on an emotional roller coaster for years. He was charged with identity theft and making a false statement to federal authorities. Ironically, the story about his hoax was covered in more papers than the original disappearance. The increased publicity didn?t bring any new leads, though, and the case soon stalled again.

Jim continues to believe Timmothy is alive somewhere, and detectives are hopeful that they will one day get the tip they need to bring some closure to the Pitzen family. The NCMEC continues to periodically produce new age progressions of Timmothy in the hopes that someone will recognize the boy and call authorities.

Timmothy Pitzen was 6 years old when he went missing in 2011. He has brown hair and brown eyes, and at the time of his disappearance he was 4 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 70 pounds. He was last seen wearing blue or green shorts, a brown t-shirt, and white socks. He was carrying a Spiderman backpack. If you have any information about Timmothy please contact the Aurora Police Department at 630?256?5000.

Timmothy (Photo provided by NCMEC)