In 2011, 6-year-old Timmothy Pitzen's mother picked him up at school in Aurora, Illinois, took him to the zoo and a water park, and was then found dead of an apparent suicide at a motel. Authorities say she left a note saying her son was fine but that no one would ever find him.
On Wednesday, a 14-year-old boy came forward to tell authorities he is Timmothy.
The boy claimed he escaped from two kidnappers in the Cincinnati area and then fled across a bridge into Kentucky, according to an Ohio police report. He told police he fled from a Red Roof Inn and that his captors have held him for the past seven years.
"Timothy [sic] described the two kidnappers as two male, whites, body-builder type build," the police report states. "One had black curly hair, Mt. Dew shirt and jeans & has a spider web tattoo on his neck. The other was short in stature and had a snake tattoo on his arms."
The kidnappers' vehicle, according to the report, was described by Timmothy to officers as a newer model Ford SUV with unknown Wisconsin plates and a second row. The Ford is white with yellow transfer paint and a dent on the left back bumper, the report states.
All surrounding police agencies with Red Roof Inns in their jursidictions were contacted and nothing was found, according to the report.
Earlier Wednesday, two Aurora detectives traveled to the area of Cincinnati, Ohio, for an investigation into a missing child, the Aurora Police Department said.
Aurora police did not confirm that the investigation in Cincinnati was related to Timmothy's disappearance, but according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Pitzen is the only child missing from west suburban Aurora.
"We've probably had thousands of tips of him popping up in different areas," Aurora police Sgt. Bill Rowley said. "We have no idea what we're driving down there for. It could be Pitzen. It could be a hoax."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation in Louisville tweeted Wednesday afternoon that it was coordinating, alongside the FBI in Cincinnati, with police in Aurora, Cincinnati and Newport, Kentucky, as well as the Hamilton County sheriff's office, on a missing child investigation. The FBI also declined to confirm that the investigation was related to Pitzen's case.
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The boy's disappearance has remained a mystery since 43-year-old Amy Fry-Pitzen took her son out of school and traveled to multiple Midwest water parks before she was found dead in May 2011. This year would mark his 14th birthday.
Alana Anderson, Pitzen’s grandmother, said Wednesday she has heard that a boy claiming to be her grandson was in a children’s hospital in Kentucky after escaping his captors.
“We never forgot, never stopped thinking about him everyday, stayed in touch with the police,” she said. “It just went cold, and I just prayed that when he was old enough that he would remember us and contact us — that was kind of the best I could hope for for a long time.”
The last time she saw her grandson he was just over 6 years old. Asked if Pitzen would recognize her, Anderson responded, "I hope so."
The last boost in the case came in 2014, when a woman in the northern Illinois town of Rockton contacted police saying she saw a boy that resembled Pitzen 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 Pitzen would have looked like at the age of 9. It remained unclear if the boy the woman saw was in fact Timmothy Pitzen.
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.
When he went missing, 6-year-old Pitzen stood about 4 feet, 2 inches tall and weighed about 70 pounds, officials said.
Anyone with information is asked to call the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) or Aurora Police at 630-256-5500.