CHICAGO (CBS) – A person found in Kentucky on Wednesday is not Timmothy Pitzen, the Aurora boy who disappeared nearly eight years ago, the FBI said Thursday. Instead, police say Brian Michael Rini, 23, of Medina, Ohio, made up the story.
Rini has a criminal record, including burglary and vandalism and was sentenced to 18 months in prison in 2017. He was recently released in that case. In 2015, he was arrested and charged with making false alarms involving a law enforcement agency. He pleaded guilty in that case. He also has several theft and disorderly conduct charges.
As of Thursday evening, charges had not been filed against Rini for orchestrating the hoax.
After learning the news, Timmothy's aunt, Kara Jacobs said, "We hope our tragedy will help to shed some light on the horrific problems of suicide and missing children in our country."
"I would reserve all judgment and pray for the young man involved."
"It's devastating. It's like reliving that day all over again. Timothy's father is devastated once again."
The person, who police now say was Rini, was seen roaming alone Wednesday morning in Newport, Kentucky, and told officers that he was Timmothy Pitzen, and had just escaped from two kidnappers who had been holding him for seven years. According to a police dispatch report, he told police he was born Oct. 18, 2004. That is Timmothy Pitzen's birthday.
Sharon Hall, who took a picture of Rini in the parking lot was convinced it was Timmothy, but not any more.
"I really thought it was him," Hall said. "I prayed it was him. I truly thought in my heart it was him.
A woman who called 911 after she found the person wandering the streets said he told her he'd been running for hours, crossing the bridge from Cincinnati into Newport, after escaping his kidnappers.
"He told me he had been kidnapped. He just really wanted to get home. He lived in Illinois that's what he told me and he just was passed around to people that he didn't know," she said. "I don't know why he would just come here and make that up. I just don't see why he would just make up his name."
She said the person looked scared and cold and he had bruises on his face.
The person was taken to a local hospital and later transferred to Cincinnati Children's Hospital, across the Ohio River from Newport. Two detectives from Aurora immediately left for Cincinnati to investigate and conduct DNA tests.
Rini first told police he was being held by two white men with bodybuilder builds, according to one police report. He said one man has black curly hair, a spider web tattoo on his neck, and was was wearing a Mountain Dew shirt and jeans. The other man is described as short with a snake tattoo on his arms.
According to witnesses in Newport, he said he had been "passed around" for the past seven years. He appeared to have bruising on his face and was frightened and agitated, according to the witnesses. One witness took a picture of Timmothy standing in a parking lot.
"He just was real antsy. He wouldn't stand still. Even the police had to get him up to the car, because he wouldn't stand still. Whenever they would walk up like this, he would walk back. So he was pretty much scared of everybody," Fray Knight said.
Rini told police he was staying with the alleged kidnappers in a Red Roof Inn, but he didn't know where it was located. He described the vehicle the men were operating as a newer model Ford SUV with unknown Wisconsin license plates. It is white with yellow transfer paint, a dent on the left back bumper and a second row.
"It created a renewed awareness in the case," said Sgt. Bill Rowley, Aurora police spokesperson. "I think that's probably good. It's got people thinking about the case again and perhaps looking at the case with new eyes."
"The fact this is a hoax is certainly a disappointment, but it's our job and we understand it's the nature of our work."
To this day, Timmothy's picture still covers his father's Facebook page.
"I just can't imagine what he's been going through," said Troy Murphey, Pitzen's high school classmate, before the news of the hoax.
Timmothy has been missing since May 2011, when his mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, was found dead inside a Rockford motel room after slitting her wrists.
Six years old at the time, Timmothy was last seen with his mother around 10 a.m. on May 13, 2011, when he accompanied her as she checked out of the Kalahari Resort at the Wisconsin Dells. Timmothy's father had reported them missing the day before.
The two apparently visited Brookfield Zoo two days earlier and checked into the Key Lime Cove Resort in Gurnee on May 11, 2011. No one heard from either of them until Friday afternoon, when Fry-Pitzen called friends and family and told them she and Timmothy were fine and not in danger. Police said Timmothy also talked to at least one relative at the time and did not seem to be in distress.
Fry-Pitzen checked into the Rockford Inn on May 13, 2011, but Timmothy apparently was not with her. Her body was found in her motel room the next day. She left a note indicating Timmothy was fine, and she had left him in the care of unnamed people, but that no one would find him.
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