The Disappearance of Timmothy Pitzen: The Child Never Found



On the 10-year anniversary of Timmothy Pitzen’s disappearance, Chicago police released an updated age-progression of Pitzen to better identity what he may have looked like in 2021.

Hannah Soukup, Managing Editor

On Wednesday, May 11, 2011, I saw my classmate Timmothy Pitzen for the last time. We would often sit on the floor of our kindergarten class together at Greenman Elementary School in Aurora, Illinois. When he disappeared, the class was confused and assumed he was out sick. Little did we know, we would never see him again. 

The Community Comes Together for Pitzen

Just days after Pitzen went missing, the Girl Scouts at Greenman band together to tie yellow ribbons around trees to support the search for him. As a part of the Girl Scouts, I remember tying the ribbons with a TV crew following us. The environment during the event was quiet and sorrowful; I don’t remember a single person speaking.

Our kindergarten teacher Cheryl Broach spoke up about Pitzen’s disappearance during class, and we all bowed our heads for him. As such young children, no one seemed to understand the severity of the situation. During kindergarten graduation, Greenman held a moment of silence to represent Pitzen and his place within our school. 

The Details of the Pitzen Case 

According to an article by NBC 5 Chicago, six-year-old Timmothy Pitzen was last seen at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells on May 12, 2011. 

Before going missing, Pitzen lived with his mother Amy Fry-Pitzen and his father Jim Pitzen in Aurora, Illinois. He attended Greenman Elementary School in West Aurora. On Wednesday, May 11, 2011, Fry-Pitzen took her son out of his kindergarten class, and he never returned. 

Broach was the last person who had seen Pitzen before his mother taking him out of class at about 8:10 a.m. When Jim Pitzen arrived to pick up Timmothy later that afternoon, he was not there, Broach didn’t understand that anything was wrong until a few days had passed. 

My principal called me into the office and met me in the hallway and told me that there were two police officers in his office and wanted to talk about Timmothy,” Broach said in a 2017 interview for MyStateLine. “And right there, I lost it. I knew something was wrong.” 

My Personal Experience with Pitzen

Back in my kindergarten class, Pitzen was always the fun kid who wanted to talk to everyone. I was very shy, so he had no problem sparking up a conversation with me. We were school friends, and it was confusing when he disappeared. Only a few weeks before he went missing, we had become closer. I remember getting in trouble together and having to sit in “quiet time” with one another. But, we were never quiet. It’s strange how a small part of my life became so significant and difficult to look back on.

The Search for Pitzen 

Based on security footage, Fry-Pitzen took her son to several Midwest water parks and zoos over the next two days after she picked him up from school. NBC 5 Chicago revealed that the pair was shown entering and leaving the Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, Illinois, the Key Lime Cove resort in Gurnee, Illinois, and the Wisconsin Dells’ Kalahari Resort. 

The last sighting of Fry-Pitzen was her going into a Family Dollar store in Winnebago, Illinois, but Pitzen was nowhere to be found. 

Several news outlets including NBC 5 Chicago reported that on May 14, 2011, Fry-Pitzen’s deceased body was found in a Rockford motel. She left behind a suicide note explaining that Pitzen was safe, but he would never be found. A few days later, Fry-Pitzen’s mother and friend received letters in the mail from Fry-Pitzen detailing her mental health struggles and how even her loyalty to her son was unable to save her. 

Police found the 2004 Ford Expedition that Fry-Pitzen drove with Timmothy in a parking lot. Police found grass, dirt and blood within and outside the car, but the blood was revealed to be a bad nosebleed Pitzen suffered. 

Cellphone records revealed that Fry-Pitzen had taken two unexplainable trips to the Dixon/Rock Falls/Sterling area within early 2011. Her family had no idea why she may have taken these trips, and they remain a mystery. 

Current Status of the Case 

It’s been nearly 12 years since Pitzen had gone missing, and he has yet to be found. Pitzen would be 18 years old. 

I never thought this case would go on as long as it has. By now, I assumed Pitzen would’ve been found, and I still research his case to see if any new information has been revealed.

As years have passed, several new discoveries and misleading information have been found regarding Pitzen’s case. In 2014, a 9-year-old boy was spotted in Rockton, Illinois, and it was believed he was Pitzen. It was not revealed if the boy was actually him. 

In a bizarre twist that made national headlines in 2019, a 14-year-old boy from Cincinnati, Ohio, claimed to be Pitzen. His DNA was not a match for that of Pitzen’s. He was a 25-year-old man named Brian Rini. Rini previously served time for burglary and vandalism, and after impersonating Pitzen, he was charged with identity theft  and was sentenced to two years in prison.  

Police have also tried to analyze the debris under Fry-Pitzon’s Ford Expedition because it did not match that of the dirt in northern Illinois. 

“There’s an unexpected mineral found in the soil called anhydrite, and if we can figure out where this mineral is occurring, or why it’s occurring in the soil, this could give us a lot of information about where the mud originated,” said Palenik, a Research Microscopist, in the article from MyStateNews. 

Jim Pitzen and the rest of his family remain hopeful that his son is alive. They continue to search for him and remain open-minded about any leads the police provide. They may not know where he is, but they believe Pitzen is alive. 

“Maybe he’s off the grid in the middle of nowhere,” Pitzen said in the NBC 5 Chicago article. “In my whole mind, I know he’s here somewhere. Where he’s at, I’m not sure.”

Reflecting on Timmothy

This case still haunts me. A child who once used to recite the ABCs with me is now gone, and that’s horrifying to think about. Just a few months prior to him going missing, Pitzen and I made a pumpkin-pie treat together in Broach’s class. We both got in trouble for not following the directions and had to sit away from the rest of the students.

As I was tearing up because it was my first time getting in trouble at school, Pitzen looked at me and smiled. He was always happy-go-lucky and didn’t let small things bother him. I think that’s why we got along: he comforted me. We both had trouble sitting still, so the once-a-week ritual of us getting in trouble was often fun.

Pitzen was also one of the “gifted” kids. He would learn things at a faster pace, similar to me, so we often had the same classwork. When the other kids were learning how to read, we were reading small books away from the class. Typically it was me, Pitzen and another student, but sometimes, it was just us. When we’d each finish our small chapter books, we’d switch and read each other’s.

After first grade, my mother and I moved from Aurora to Pingree Grove. We were nearly 40 minutes away from Aurora, but the case still persisted. A few times, we walked into a Walmart and looked at the ‘missing person’ wall, and Pitzen’s photo was pinned on the board with information regarding his case. As a kid, how do you process that?

In my heart, I believe Pitzen is alive, but there is no evidence that can confirm that. I don’t know what to think or believe because of how graphic this case was, but I hope and pray that the once lively six-year-old boy who was my friend is an alive and being a happy 18-year-old. Everyone deserves that.