CINCINNATI (AP) — DNA tests disproved a teenager’s claim that he was an Illinois boy who disappeared eight years ago, 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 teenager 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 in the Cincinnati area who had held him captive for seven years.
Timmothy Pitzen was the name of a boy from Aurora, Illinois, who disappeared in 2011 around the time of his mother’s suicide, and there have been a multitude of false sightings and hoaxes over the years.
“DNA results have been returned indicating the person in question is not Timmothy Pitzen,” FBI spokesman Timothy Beam in Louisville said in a statement. “A local investigation continues into this person's true identity.”
He added: “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.”
Timmothy vanished at age 6 after his mother pulled him out of kindergarten early one day, took him on a two-day road trip to the zoo and a water park, and then killed herself at a hotel. She left a note saying that her son was safe but that no one would ever find him.
The case left police, Timmothy’s family and his hometown wondering whether he was dead or alive.
After Wednesday’s developments, Aurora police sent two detectives to check out the teenager’s story, and the FBI was also investigating.
Police and Timmothy’s family had reacted cautiously to the latest turn in the case after a multitude of disappointments.
“There have been so many tips and sightings and whatnot, and you try not to panic or be overly excited,” said Timmothy's grandmother, Alana Anderson. “Every day you hope, and every day you worry.”
She didn’t answer a phone call immediately after the FBI announcement.
Timmothy’s mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, was found dead at a hotel in Illinois in what was ruled a suicide, leaving a note that said Timmothy was with others who would love and care for him. People magazine reported that she added a chilling message: “You will never find him.”
Police said she might have dropped Timmothy 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 Thursday that 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 the time of the boy’s disappearance, police searched for him in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa.
“We’ve probably had thousands of tips of him popping up in different areas,” Aurora police Sgt. Bill Rowley said Wednesday.
At Greenman Elementary, 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.”
On Wednesday, police in the Cincinnati suburb of Sharonville said the teenager calling himself Timmothy reported that he had escaped from two kidnappers he described as men with bodybuilder-type physiques.
They were in a Ford SUV with Wisconsin license plates and had been staying at a Red Roof Inn, according to the police report.