WHAT HAPPENED? (1)
On May 11, 2011, Timmothy Pitzen, a 6-year-old from Illinois, was dropped off at school by his father. His mother picked him up from school and took him on a 3-day trip to some amusement and water parks.
His mother's body was found in a motel room in Rockford, Illinois, having committed suicide, her son not there. She left a note saying that Timothy was safe, but would never be found.
DISAPPEARANCE & INVESTIGATION
By all accounts, Timmothy was a happy, playful, energetic kid. But Amy and James, however, were going through a bit of a rough patch. Before Timmothy's disappearance, the couple had been fighting because Amy took a cruise with a friend for her birthday without telling James, leaving him behind. Amy had been divorced 3 times before marrying James. (2)
On top of their rocky relationship, Amy had pretty severe mental health problems. Though she was taking medication for depression at the time, she had attempted suicide before. During their argument, she had mentioned splitting up. Friends and family speculate that she was concerned that if they did split up, her history of mental illness may prevent her from getting custody of their son. Perhaps that is what lead to what happened next. (2)
Amy Fry-Pitzen gave birth to her son, Timmothy Pitzen, in Aurora, Illinois on October 18, 2004. 6 years later, Timothy's father James Pitzen dropped him off at kindergarten in the morning. He told him that he loved him and to be good. He ran off, spiderman backpack in tow, toward his kindergarten teacher. James planned to return to the school at the end of the day to pick up his son. But that would never happen. (1)
About 30 minutes after Timmothy was dropped off, Amy showed up claiming a family emergency. She signed her son out, and security footage shows them leaving at around 8:30 AM. (2)
Amy dropped her car off at a repair shop at 10:00 AM, and an employee of the repair shop drove mother and son to the Brookfield Zoo. They returned to pick up the car at 3:00 PM and drove to KeyLime Cove Resort, where they spent the night. The following morning, they drove to Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. They were seen on security footage in the checkout line at Kalahari the next day, but Timothy has not been seen or heard from since. (1) During their little vacation together, Timmothy could be seen in many security tapes. Fortunately, he looked like he was not distressed in any way, not knowing what was really going on, but having fun at the zoo and the water park with his mom. (2)
In the afternoon of May 13, Amy called several family members to inform them that she and Timothy were safe. She called her mother, telling her that they were safe and she just needed some space. She also called James' brother to tell him the same, but allegedly also said "Timmothy belongs to me". (2)
However, she did not contact her husband, James, who had been frantically trying to find his wife and son since he arrived to pick up his kindergartner days before to find he was not there. He had reported them missing. (1)
In the evening of May 13, Amy is seen alone at a Family Dollar store, purchasing a pen, notebook and envelopes. She was seen again at Sullivan's Food store alone about an hour later. She checked into her motel at 11:15 PM, which is the last time Amy was seen alive. (1)
The next day in the afternoon, a hotel maid found Amy's body. Her wrists and neck had been slashed, and she had overdosed on antihistamines. In the note, along with apologizing for the mess, she said that Timmothy was safe with people who would care for him, but would never be found. (1)
Once police arrived on the scene, they determined that the knife Amy had used to kill herself contained only her blood, but a "concerning amount" of the blood found in her car was Timmothy's. However, further investigation and conversation with family members revealed that the blood could have been from a nosebleed Timmothy had in the car earlier in the month. (1)
Police also noted that Amy's phone was missing. They could determine that, at some point, her car was parked in a grassy area near a highway. 2 years after the disappearance, Amy's cell phone was found near route 78, but it did not bring about any breaks in the case. They were able to determine that it pinged off of a cell phone tower near Sterling, Illinois, but it didn't help find the child. It did, however, lead them to believe that his disappearance was pre-planned. Amy had made 2 trips to that area in the months leading up to Timmothy's disappearance. (1)
James believes his son is still alive. (1) I'm partially inclined to agree, because she did take him kind of far away and promise that he was safe, so there is a chance that she passed him off to someone else who could care for him. However, I can't imagine anyone who would just be willing to take a 6 year old boy with a loving family who missed him, so she probably would have had to give her son away in a way that seemed like he had nobody else in his life. But, given the extensive media coverage of the case, you would have to imagine whoever randomly received a 6-year-old kid that day in May would realize that he was kidnapped.
Additionally, if she was in a poor state of mind, by saying he was safe but would never be found, she could have meant that she killed her son to "save him" from whatever threat she perceived for him and herself.
In 2018, Timmothy's case was shown on Live PD that showed an age progression of what Timmothy may have looked like at age 13. (1)
In 2019, an already strange and sad case got even stranger and sadder. On April 3 of last year, a young man emerged, agitated and bruised, on a street in Newport, Kentucky. He said that he was Timmothy Pitzen and he had been missing for years. He claimed to have escaped from captors and was trying to get back home. (3)
Authorities took him to the emergency room at children's hospital in Cincinnati. The would-be 14-year-old refused to let authorities take his fingerprints, the first sign that something was amiss. The person claiming to be Timmothy also had a pretty significant amount of facial hair, a lot more than a barely teenager would have. (3)
But he wasn't immediately dismissed. If his claims were true and he had been held captive since 2011, who knows what state he would be in? They had to confirm their suspicions. (3)
Unfortunately, despite the hopes of a defeated father who thought he may get to see his son again being up, the man's DNA was tested against Timmothy's, and they confirmed that he was not their missing child. Despite arguing for hours that he had been held captive in a hotel room for years, physically and sexually abused, the man was not a 14-year-old kidnapped child, but instead, a 23-year-old felon named Brian Rini. In attempt to get away from his own family, he used his knowledge from a recent 20/20 episode he had watched about Timmothy. (3)
Mr. Rini had experience pretending to be other people. He had twice before pretended to be a young victim of sex trafficking for whatever gain he was attempting that time. He also pretended to be adults, too, like the time he pretended to be a prospective home-buyer so he could gain access to an expensive Cleveland house to throw a party he had promoted on Facebook. (3)
So, what happened to Timmothy Pitzen? This case is a little bit different (and perhaps leaves a little bit more room for hope) than other disappearances, because we know who (originally) took him, and she promised he was safe. James, despite obviously being horrified about what his wife did, said that he knows she loved her son and he does not believe she would have hurt him. So where does that leave Timmothy?
Some believe that, perhaps because of her warped sense of what might happen in her relationship, she killed her son and committed suicide to punish her husband. I personally don't think anything in their relationship would have lead to this, but in the mind of someone who is severely mentally ill and is spiraling, she may have made a foregone conclusion in her mind that her husband was going to try to take their son, and she wouldn't allow it.
The time Timmothy is unaccounted for raises some red flags, as well. He was last seen when they were checking out of the Kalahari resort at 10 AM, but neither were seen again until 7:25 PM, when Amy was alone. The drive between these 2 destinations is only 2 hours. So while whether he was handed off to someone or killed within that time frame is unknown, something definitely happened.
Another theory also lands on Amy killing her son, but not in a conscious effort to punish him. Some believe she was in the midst of a psychotic episode. Citing her driving patterns, it does not appear that she had any pre-planned destination, she was simply driving wherever. Ultimately, she convinced herself she had to kill her son to save him.
Some theorize that he may have been dropped off in a local Amish community, though in another missing child case, authorities spoke to an Amish community to ask if they would take in a child who showed up without question, and they were pretty adamant that they would not have, and would have immediately contacted the police.
You also have to remember that he was 6 years old. While obviously still quite young, this is different than an infant being brought up by a new family. A 6-year-old knows his mom and dad, and certainly would miss them. If he had just been dropped off somewhere to be taken into a safe household, he almost certainly would have then, or in the years that have passed since, explained what happened. He knew to call 911 in an emergency, he knew his name. It is hard to imagine that he would just silently be raised in a new home of parents who were none the wiser. Unless they turned out to be bad people who didn't care if he missed his dad, and he is being held captive.
Personally, I think if she was telling the truth that he was with someone and safe, it would have to be someone she knew. Because no good person just takes a 6-year-old off of someone's hands with no questions asked. And I don't think there is anyone she knew that would do that. It just seems too far fetched to have placed him with a caring family who, in 9 years, hasn't said anything while his father continues to look for him and mourn him.
I know that James believes his wife wouldn't have been capable of killing their beloved son, but during the time he was with her and possibly killed, I don't think Amy was the woman be married and loved. I think she was a potentially psychotic version of that woman who felt that she and her son were threatened and had to act. While I believe there is a higher chance that he is alive than some other mysterious disappearances, I still think it is more likely that she killed her son and considers his death being "safe" with people who care about him.
This case is really crazy from start to finish. From a fairly normal couple to having one parent kidnap the child, unbeknownst to the father. The weird vacation spots. Her suicide and note. The unrelated but still weird hoax reappearance. It is so sad and so strange and I hope that one day, James Pitzen gets to see his son again, or at least gets closure as to what happened to his beloved child.