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What to Know About the Timmothy Pitzen Hoax

Timmothy Pitzen and Brian Michael Rini.
Timmothy Pitzen and Brian Michael Rini. Photo: Shutterstock

The afternoon of May 11, 2011, Jim Pitzen went to pick up his 6-year-old son Timmothy from his Aurora, Illinois, elementary school. When he arrived, Timmothy’s teacher told him that the boy’s mother, Amy, had picked him up earlier that morning. A few days later, Amy’s body was discovered in a motel room. She was dead of an apparent suicide, and Timmothy was nowhere to be found.

Amy left a note saying that she took her son “somewhere safe” and that “he will be well cared for.” Timmothy’s whereabouts have been a mystery since — though for a brief window this week, it appeared that there was a breakthrough in the case.

The Washington Post reports that on Wednesday, a young man wandering around Newport, Kentucky, was picked up by local woman Crekasafra Night with bruises all over his face. “Can you help me?” he asked her. “I just want to get home. Please help me.” When he got to the police, he claimed that he was 14 years old and that his name was Timmothy Pitzen.

He also said that he had been held captive in nearby Cincinnati, Ohio, and had escaped from the motel he was staying at with two men. Per the New York Times, he said that he “had been held against his will and traded among people for years, and that he just wanted to go home.” Here’s how he described his current captors:

Two white men in a Ford S.U.V. with Wisconsin plates, both of them built like bodybuilders. One had curly black hair and a tattoo of a spider web on his neck; the other man was short and had a snake tattoo on his arms.

Investigators ran a DNA test promptly afterwards to determine if he was who he claimed to be.

The FBI announced on Thursday that the teen found wandering the streets is not Timmothy Pitzen. Nor was he a teen at all, but a 23-year-old Ohio man named Brian Michael Rini. Per what police told WLWT5, Rini is a “known schemer” with a lengthy criminal record. The ex-convict was most recently released from jail a month ago after serving a sentence for burglary and vandalism, though he’s also been charged with crimes such as falsification and passing bad checks.

“He has Asperger’s, bipolar disorder, ADHD, the list goes on. He was receiving treatment but then he stopped and started getting in more trouble,” Jonathan Rini, Brian Rini’s estranged brother, told the outlet. “He’s been doing stupid stuff, not this serious, but he’s been doing stupid stuff for as long as I can remember.”

Timmothy Pitzen’s aunt and grandmother gave a news conference after the results of the DNA test were made public. “It’s devastating,” his aunt, Kara Jacobs, told reporters. “It’s like living that day all over again. And Timmothy’s father is devastated once again.”

This post has been updated throughout.

What to Know About the Timmothy Pitzen Hoax