Family tricked by conman’s web of lies
A LOCAL police sergeant warned it could be the story of a decade.
The grieving, broken family of Timmothy Pitzen told media that after many false hopes this was the closest they felt they had come to being reunited with their missing son.
But sadly what could have been the story of the decade - a boy returned to his family after seven years trapped with two kidnappers - was too good to be true.
Local residents in Newport, Cincinnati, had become suspicious earlier this week when they spotted a man in a hoodie hanging around their cars. They suspected him of being a thief and one local started filming him in a bid to collect evidence.
But when he was approached, the man had an unbelievable story.
He said he was Timmothy Pitzen, a young boy who had disappeared almost eight years ago after his mother took him out of school unexpectedly and then took her own life in a hotel room.
He said he'd escaped captivity after years being held by buff, body builder-type kidnappers with spider web and snake tattoos. He told locals he'd made a dash for his life from the
Red Roof Inn, a budget motel that's part of a chain. He had run for hours before feeling safe enough to ask strangers for help.
But his story was shaky.
While he claimed to have run on foot, and "kept running across a bridge into (Kentucky)", he was unable to tell police where the hotel was.
When police searched a Red Roof Inn in the area, and other local motels, they found nothing, according to police documents.
"This could be the story of a decade," Sargeant Bill Rowley of the Aurora, Illinois, police department warned on Thursday.
"But if it's not, it'll be a horrible let-down."
Police were careful to reiterate over the next 24 hours that they had not confirmed the identity of the young man, although the police report named the man as Timmothy Pitzen.
Local residents who first encountered the man were more convinced, telling upsetting, detailed stories of what they'd encountered.
A woman who called 911 told emergency services she believed he had run for hours from his kidnappers. "He told me he had been kidnapped, he just really wanted to get home, he lived in Illinois. That's what he told me, and he just was passed around to people that he didn't know," she said.
"I don't know why he would just come here and make that up. I just don't see why he would just make up his name."
His story was convincing, and while the FBI began working with Cincinnati and Aurora police to establish the veracity of the "teenager's" claims, the world held it's breath and waited for the results of a DNA test, a 24 hour process.
The detectives had a DNA sample from the missing boy, and it was tested against the DNA of the man who'd appeared on the street.
After a long 24 hours, the results were in. The samples did not match.
WHO IS THE HOAXER?
Brian Michael Rini is a 23-year-old man from Medina, a small city near Cleveland, Ohio.
He's a convicted fraudster and thief, known to police for trying to pass off bad checks.
He recently served 14 months of an 18 month sentence in an Ohio prison for burglary and vandalism, according to Chicago CBS Local News. He was just released on March 7.
Rini was on a three month probation period.
In 2015, Rini was charged for "making false alarms involving a law enforcement agency" and convicted of the felony charge of passing off bad checks, according to The Post. In 2017, he was arrested for causing more than $1,000 in damages to a home, the Medina Gazette reported.
He has previously pleaded guilty to making false claims to police.
His 21-year-old brother Jonathon said Rini used his identity when stopped by cops for a traffic violation, according to CNN. He didn't find out until he got a letter in the mail saying his license had been suspended.
"I don't want to talk to him anymore," his brother said.
'ITS BEEN AWFUL'
Meanwhile Timmothy's family were left devastated that they had been duped into believing albeit for a short time an elaborate story of abduction by a convicted felon.
"It's devastating. It's like reliving that day all over again, and Timmothy's father is devastated once again," said his aunt Kara Jacobs.
His grandmother and aunt fronted media after the news broke describing the last 24 hours as "awful" for their family.
"We've been on tenterhooks. We've been alternately hopeful and frightened and it's just been exhausting," Timothy's grandmother Alana Anderson told media.
"But as Kara said, I just feel so sorry for the young man who has obviously had a horrible time and feels the need to say he's somebody else."
The hamstrung family, who have longed for missing boy Timmothy for almost eight years, told media they has been "cautiously hopeful" the DNA tests would deliver positive results. Ms Anderson said since his disappearance the family had prayed for him to return.
"I'm very hopeful that it's him and that he's OK and he's been in a good place when he was gone and that he's going to come back to us," Ms Anderson said speaking to news station WXIX.
"If it turns out to be him, we'll be thrilled. We never stopped looking for him, and we love him, and we'll do everything we can to get him back to a good life."
The FBI reiterated their commitment to the missing person case.
"To be clear, law enforcement has not and will not forget Timmothy, and we hope to one day reunite him with his family," an FBI spokesperson stated. "Unfortunately, that day will not be today."
TIMMOTHY'S DISAPPEARANCE: A TIMELINE
On May 11 2011, Timmothy, 6, was dropped at Greenman Elementary School in Aurora by his father Jim.
Soon afterwards at about 8.15am, his mother Amy Pitzen arrived and told staff there had been a "family emergency". She took Timmothy to a car repair shop, and while they worked on her car, she and Timmothy went to a zoo.
In the meantime, Jim went back to the school to pick up Timmothy and was shocked to find he wasn't there.
Amy and Timmothy returned and picked up the car around 3pm and made their way to a resort in Gurnee Illinois, where they spend the night.
The next day, Amy and Timmothy checked out of the resort, and checked into the Kalahari Resort and water park in Wisconsin Dells. Amy called family members to let them know she and Timmothy were okay. In the background they could hear Timmothy's voice.
This was the last time the boy was heard.
Amy, who was having trouble in her marriage, and had previously suffered from depression, did not make contact with her husband.
The next day, May 12, her frantic husband filed a missing-person report.
The same day Amy was seen buying stationery in a shopping centre in Rockford, without her son. Surveillance footage shows her buying a pen, paper and envelopes in Rockford, Illinois. She then checked into the Rockford Inn sometime that night or morning.
Amy was found by a maid on May 13 at the Rockford Inn. She had taken her own life. Timmothy was nowhere to be found.
She'd left suicide notes in the room and posted them to family members, apologising for leaving a mess. She also said Timmothy was now with other people. She told the surviving family that he would never be found.
"His mother left me a letter and she said that he would be with people who would love him and take care of him," Ms Anderson told NBC News.
"She felt that her life had come to an end and she was going to end her life and she didn't want to leave him without good parenting."
THE TRAIL GOES COLD
Amy's car was found by police apparently discarded in a grassy area. Police believed Timmothy could have gone missing at this point, but couldn't be sure.
Police also found her mobile phone discarded on Route 78, an interstate highway. But searching the phone revealed nothing of note to authorities.
Blood inside the hotel room only belonged to Amy. Police found traces of Timmothy's blood inside the car, but family insisted it came from a nosebleed he'd had in the car a year earlier.
The trail for Timmothy had apparently gone cold. Despite numerous public appeals and police releasing an age progressed image of how the boy would look now, Timmothy was not located.
This week the family expressed their sadness and asked the public to join them in praying for the hoaxer.
"Unfortunately this child is not our beloved Timmothy. We know that you are out there, somewhere Tim, and we will never stop looking for you, praying for you, and loving you," said his aunt Kara Jacobs.
"We hope that everyone will join us in praying for the young man who claimed to be Timmothy Pitzen. There is far too many lost children in desperate need of help.
"We hope our tragedy will help to shed some light on the horrific problems of suicide and missing children in our country."