A young man’s claim to be an Illinois boy who disappeared after last being seen in the Wisconsin Dells eight years ago was disproved by DNA tests, the FBI said Thursday, dashing hopes that the baffling case had finally been solved.
For a day and a half, a breakthrough seemed to be at hand when a young man found wandering the streets of Newport, Kentucky, on Wednesday identified himself as 14-year-old Timmothy Pitzen and claimed he had just escaped from two men who had held him captive for seven years.
But DNA tests ruled out that possibility, the FBI said. Newport Police Chief Tom Collins identified the young man to ABC as Brian Rini of Medina, Ohio, a 23-year-old ex-convict.
“Law enforcement has not and will not forget Timmothy, and we hope to one day reunite him with his family. Unfortunately, that day will not be today,” FBI spokesman Timothy Beam in Louisville said in a statement.
Timmothy’s family members said they were heartbroken over the apparent hoax.
“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.
The boy’s grandmother, Alana Anderson, said: “It’s been awful. We’ve been on tenterhooks, hopeful and frightened. It’s just been exhausting. ... I feel so sorry for the young man who’s obviously had a horrible time and felt the need to say he was somebody else.”
State prison records indicate Rini was released last month after serving time for burglary and vandalism.
Timmothy, of Aurora, Illinois, vanished at age 6 in 2011 after his mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, pulled him out of kindergarten early one day, took him on a two-day road trip to the zoo and a Dells water park, and then killed herself at a hotel.
The mother left a note saying that her son was safe with people who would love and care for him, and added: “You will never find him.”
After the young man claiming to be Timmothy came forward, police and Timmothy’s family reacted cautiously because of many false sightings and hoaxes over the years.
“We’ve probably had thousands of tips of him popping up in different areas,” Aurora police Sgt. Bill Rowley said Wednesday.
Police have said Timmothy’s mother might have dropped the boy off with a friend, noting that the boy’s car seat and Spider-Man backpack were gone. Police also found credit-card receipts showing she bought children’s clothing and toys in Wisconsin.
Timmothy’s grandmother said her daughter had fought depression for years and was having problems in her marriage to Timmothy’s father. Some news reports suggested she was afraid she would lose custody of the boy in a divorce because of her mental instability.
At Greenman Elementary after the boy’s disappearance, Timmothy’s schoolmates, teachers and parents tied hundreds of yellow ribbons around trees and signs. A garden was planted in his memory.
The brief but tantalizing possibility that the case had been solved generated excitement in Timmothy’s former neighborhood.
Pedro Melendez, who lives in Timmothy’s former home, didn’t know the boy but saved the concrete slab with his name, handprint and footprint etched in it when he redid the back patio. It is dated “’09.”
“My wife is really excited. She’s been following this story since we moved in the house,” said Melendez, who bought the house from the boy’s father. “Hopefully, it’s him.”
Linda Ramirez, who lives nearby and knew the family, said she was “pretty excited” but didn’t “want to have false hopes.”
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