Norwalk Reflector: Ohio man, 23, claimed to be missing Illinois boy, police say

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Ohio man, 23, claimed to be missing Illinois boy, police say

By Sarah Freishtat and Megan Jones • Apr 5, 2019 at 9:25 AM

NEWPORT, Ky. — After a daylong investigation that captured national attention into whether a person who turned up in Newport, Ky., could be missing Illinois boy Timmothy Pitzen, the Louisville FBI office said in a tweet DNA results show he is not Timmothy.

“A local investigation continues into this person’s true identity,” a subsequent tweet from the Louisville FBI office read. “To be clear, 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.”

Aurora, Ill., police spokesman Sgt. Bill Rowley also released a statement that read, in part: “Although we are disappointed that this turned out to be a hoax, we remain diligent in our search for Timmothy, as our missing person’s case remains unsolved.”

Newport, Ky., Police Lt. Chris Fangman confirmed the man claiming to be Timmothy is, in reality, a 23-year-old Medina, Ohio, man.

Police followed their standard procedures in identifying people and learned his true identity when DNA test results came back Thursday afternoon, Fangman said.

The man was emaciated and required medical attention when he came to police attention, Fangman said.

An investigation will take place, Fangman said. Authorities don’t yet know many factors surrounding the situation, including the man’s mental state, he said.

Authorities are weighing charges, which will be determined when the investigation is finished, he said.

“Make no mistake about it, no one gets away with this,” he said.

Fangman cautioned against jumping to conclusions too early.

“Some of the things we’ve seen over the past year of people jumping to conclusions, we really hope people can avoid that,” he said.

Timmothy’s grandmother, Alana Anderson, told TV reporters outside her Antioch home: “It’s kind of like back to ground zero. It’s forcing us to relive that day again, hard.” She said Timmothy’s DNA was used in the comparison testing.

Describing the last 24 hours, Anderson said, “It’s been awful. We’ve been on tenterhooks. We’ve been hopeful, alternatively hopeful, and frightened. It’s, it’s just been exhausting.”

Timmothy’s aunt Kara Jacobs, who was at her mother’s Antioch home, said, “We’ve tried to go on with our lives, but obviously this will always be with us.”

As for the person who claimed to be Timothy, Jacobs said she had no comment.

Yamii Grande, who grew up in Timmothy’s former Aurora neighborhood, said her reaction to Timmothy possibly returning is the exact same reaction she had hearing the case remains unsolved — tears.

“I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but I really had a good feeling about it this time,” Grande said. “It’s happened before, but it got really far this time.”

What really threw off Grande this time, she said, was the amount of information the person gave about Timmothy, like knowing his name and his birthday, she said.

Grande was in third grade when Timmothy, whom she calls her little brother, disappeared. She’s moved out of her mom’s house in Aurora but returned this week because she thought Timmothy would return.

This isn’t the first time Aurora residents have gotten their hopes up about Timmothy. A tip came through in 2015 that a child living in Orlando, Fla., looked a lot like the missing boy. The tip turned out to be one of several dead ends.

Grande said she’s still going to keep praying for Timmothy.

“If he sees this, I’d tell him to come back home,” Grande said. “There’s a lot of people waiting back here for him. It’s one of the reasons we never left here.”

Timmothy Pitzen was 6 when his father dropped him off at Greenman Elementary School in Aurora on May 11, 2011. He was picked up shortly after by his mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, who took him on a three-day trip to a zoo and water parks before she was found dead by suicide in a Rockford motel room. Notes she left behind stated her son was safe but would never be found.

According to a Sharonville, Ohio, police report filed Wednesday, dispatchers in Kentucky said a 14-year-old named Timmothy Pitzen fled across a bridge near Cincinnati over the Ohio River and into Kentucky after escaping two kidnappers who had held him hostage for seven years.

“(Timmothy) is originally from Illinois and was last known to be with his mother, who apparently had killed herself. A note was left stating that (Timmothy) was with someone, but safe,” the report said.

A Kentucky woman on Thursday described the teen who was found near Cincinnati as “nervous” and on the verge of collapse before police took him away Wednesday.

Sharon Hall, who lives in Newport, Ky., a town across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, said she first saw the 14-year-old early Wednesday and thought he looked suspicious.

It wasn’t until later that she learned who the person might be, she said.

Hall said she saw the teen leaning against a blue SUV on the corner of her street about 7:30 a.m. Wednesday. He was wearing a hoodie and looked dirty, and she first thought he might be trying to break into cars on the street.

“We literally just thought he was going to collapse,” she said.

Two girls, likely on their way to school, spotted him, and one appeared to call police, she said.

He wouldn’t come near the girls and stayed in the middle of the street. He seemed “standoffish” and “nervous,” Hall said.

“It was frightening,” she said.

Police arrived and, after 15 or 20 minutes, took him off in a squad car, she said. They pulled back his hood and searched him, but she didn’t see them handcuff him, she said.

The person named as Timmothy in the Ohio police report described his kidnappers as two white men. One had black curly hair, a Mountain Dew shirt, jeans and a spider web tattoo on his neck. The other was short with a snake tattoo on his arms. They were in a Ford SUV with Wisconsin license plates, according to the report.

The kidnappers and the boy had been staying at a Red Roof Inn, though the boy was unsure where, the report said.


(The Beacon-News is a publication of the Chicago Tribune. Freishtat reported from Cincinnati, Jones from Aurora. Tribune reporter John Keilman contributed to this report.)


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