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What We Know So Far – NBC Chicago

Watch the full documentary, “What Happened to Timmothy Pitzen,” in the player above or on NBC 5

A new examination of a years-old case surrounding a missing child, his mother’s suicide and a chilling note that led to an ongoing search has many wondering: is Timmothy alive?

Timmothy Pitzen’s disappearance 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.

Here’s a look at the latest developments and what has happened over the years in the case.

What happened when Timmothy Pitzen disappeared?

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.

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.

Before her death, Fry-Pitzen left behind a cryptic note in the motel room saying that Timmothy was with people who would take good care of him, but will never be seen again.

Questions have swirled around the meaning of Fry-Pitzen’s note for years. Had Amy found someone willing to secretly adopt her son? Or had she done something to Timmothy she did not want people to know about?

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.

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.

In the days following Fry-Pitzen’s death, two letters arrived in the mail, not to her husband but to Fry-Pitzen’s mother and a friend. In the letters, Fry-Pitzen wrote she was sorry but that she did not feel like she “ever belonged in the world. And I felt for a long time that I belonged with Timmothy but in the end, that wasn’t even enough, and I need to go.”

Have there been any new discoveries?

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.” 

What else has happened in the case?

In 2014, 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.

Then, in 2019, another claim was made, sending shockwaves throughout the country.

A14-year-old appeared in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area claiming to be Pitzen.

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.

But a DNA test showed the boy in question was not actually Pitzen, according to the FBI. 

Kentucky police later said the person claiming to be Pitzen was actually 23-year-old Brian Michael Rini of Medina, Ohio. Further information on him was not immediately available.

What does the family say?

At his home in Clinton, Iowa, Jim Pitzen is a father surrounded by memories of his lost son. His living room walls are frozen in better times with framed pictures of Timmothy as a baby up until age 6.

“I think he’s going to find me before I find him,” Pitzen said.

Timmothy, now presumably an adult with access to a phone or internet, has not reached out to his father.

“Maybe he’s off the grid in the middle of nowhere,” Pitzen believes, noting that perhaps Timmothy is unable to call. “In my whole mind, I know he’s here somewhere. Where he’s at, I’m not sure.”

Jim Pitzen’s nightmare unfolded in 2011 when his wife, Amy, unexpectedly took their son, Timmothy, out of Kindergarten early. Timmothy hasn’t been seen since, but Jim believes he is still alive. NBC 5 Investigates’ Rob Stafford reports.

To this day, Pitzen does not believe Fry-Pitzen would harm their son saying, “She would never do anything to hurt him. No, never.”

Fry-Pitzen’s sister agreed.

“It’s not over yet,” said Kara Jacobs, Timmothy’s aunt. “He’s not living the life that we think he should be living because I think he should be with his father,. But one day, we are going to see him and you’re gonna see the other side of the story. And that’s going to be amazing.”

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