Details of Disappearance
Timmothy lived with his parents, James Pitzen and Amy Joan Marie Fry-Pitzen, in Aurora, Illinois at the time of his disappearance; he is their only child.
Without telling anyone of her plans, Amy removed him from his kindergarten class at Greenman Elementary School on the morning of May 11, 2011. She cited an unspecified family emergency as the resason for the removal. After checking him out of school, she drove to an auto repair shop and dropped off her blue 2004 Ford Expedition SUV at 10:00 a.m.
One of the repair shop employees drove Amy and Timmothy to the Brookfield Zoo, and at 3:00 p.m. she came to pick up her repaired vehicle and drove with Timmothy to the KeyLime Cove Resort in Gurnee, Illinois, where they spent the night.
Meanwhile, James had reported his wife and son missing after he went to pick up Timmothy from kindergarten and found out his mother had taken him. He called her cellular phone numerous times but got no answer.
Photos of Amy and her car are posted with this case summary. She did eventually contact not James, but his older brother, and said she and Timmothy were fine and just needed some time alone, that "Tim is my son, I can do what I want." Timmothy's uncle could hear him playing in the background of the call. Amy promised to return home in a day or two.
On May 12, Amy and Timmothy drove to the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. The following morning at 10:00 a.m., security camera footage showed them waiting in line to check out.
At 1:30 p.m., Amy made several cellular phone calls to her loved ones to say she and Timmothy were fine and not in trouble. Timmothy could be heard in the background and sounded normal, saying only that he was hungry. This was the last time anyone saw or heard from the child.
At 7:25 p.m., Amy was sighted at a Family Dollar store in Winnebago, Illinois, where she purchased stationery. This time she was alone. She went to the nearby Sullivan's Foods at 8:00 p.m., then checked into the Rockford Inn in Rockford, Illinois between 11:15 and 11:30 p.m.
Sometime that night or the next morning, she took her own life by slashing her wrists and neck; she had also taken an overdose of antihistamines. She was 43 years old. The inn's employees found her body at 12:30 p.m. the next day, May 14.
Amy left a note and two letters in the mail (one to her mother and one to a friend) saying Timmothy was fine and with people who cared about him, but she didn't name those people. One of her notes said no one would ever find him. Her cellular phone was missing.
Other items were also missing, including Timmothy's Spiderman backpack, his toys and clothes, the clothes Amy was wearing when she checked out of the Kalahari Resort, a tube of Crest toothpaste and an iPass transponder. Photos of some similar items are posted with this case summary.
Authorities initally believed Amy had in fact given Timmothy to other people to care for, in part because his car seat was missing. However, the car seat turned up in Timmothy's grandmother's possession in Wooster, Ohio; she had had it since a week before Timmothy disappeared. As the days passed without any indication of the child's whereabouts, police became increasingly concerned for his safety.
When they examined Amy's SUV, they found a "concering amount" of Timmothy's blood in the backseat. However, they couldn't tell how long the stains had been there and one of the boy's relatives said he had gotten a bloody nose in the vehicle about twelve to eighteen months before his disappearance. The knife Amy used to take her life had only her own blood on it.
Amy's SUV was "visibly dirty" and had soil, tall grass and weeds stuck to the undercarriage when it was located after her death. Forensic testing on the plant and sediment materials on the car indicated it stopped for a time on a gravel area just off an asphalt road that had at one time been treated with glass road-making beads.
The vehicle backed into a grassy meadow or field which contained Queen Anne's lace and black mustard plants and would have been nearly treeless; some oak or birch trees were in the general area but not in the direct place where the car stopped. There was possibly a pond or small stream close by. There were no indications that the land was cultivated as either a lawn or for growing crops.
Investigators think the meadow is probably in Lee County or Whiteside County in northwestern Illinois, but they are also considering Carroll, Ogle, Stephenson and Winnebago Counties.
Investigators believe Amy may have been planning Timmothy's disappearance for months. In February and Marcy 2011, she took two unexplained trips to the area he would later disappear from. She had an email account opened under her maiden name in 2007, and kept it a secret from her husband, but the account didn't contain anything useful to the investigation.
James stated he was baffled by his wife's suicide and Timmothy's disappearance, and had no idea where his son could be. He and Amy's mother both stated Amy loved Timmothy deeply and they didn't believe she would have harmed him. She would sometimes leave home for a few hours at a time when she was upset, but she had never previously taken Timmothy with her.
The Pitzens had almost divorced in 2008, when James found out Amy was secretly in contact with one of her three ex-husbands and they were making plans to meet while James was out of town. James gave his wife an ultimatum, saying if she did not stop contacting her ex, he would file for divorce and full custody of Timmothy.
Amy chose to stay in her marriage, but the couple's relationship remained troubled. Amy suffered from depression and had previously tried to take her own life, once before she met James and a second time shortly after they began seeing each other. She and James had had a "big fight" the morning Amy checked her son out of school.
All of the child's family members have all been cooperative with the investigation and none of them have been named as suspects in Timmothy's disappearance.
Amy's cellular phone, which was missing at the time of her death, turned up on the roadside of Route 78 in the autumn of 2013. Investigators went back to the place where it was found and conducted a search, but found nothing else of interest, and nothing of interest in the phone itself.
In April 2019, a young man found wandering in Newport, Kentucky, a city near the Ohio border, claimed he was Timmothy and that had he had escaped from his captors after being "passed around" and sexually abused for years. There was significant national media attention of the story, but it turned out to be a hoax.
The man who claimed to be Timmothy was identified as Brian Michael Rini, a 23-year-old who had recently been released from prison and had twice previously claimed to be a child sex trafficking victim. A photo of Rini is posted with this case summary.
After the hoax was discovered, he was jailed on charges of identity theft and lying to federal investigators. In December 2020, he reached a plea deal, pleading guilty to aggravated identity theft. He was sentenced to two years in prison, with credit for time served. If convicted on the original charges, he could have faced a maximum term of eight years.
Timmothy's loved ones described him as a very active, outgoing boy and a natural leader who was at ease with both adults and other children. He enjoys going to the zoo, using playground equipment such as the swings and sandbox, bike and Go-Kart riding, and his collection of Matchbox cars. He was learning how to swim at the time of his disappearance. His favorite foods including Chuck E. Cheese pizza, yogurt, macaroni and cheese, and anything from McDonald's.
Aurora police are investigating Timmothy's case. His disappearance remains unsolved.