AURORA, Ill. (STMW) -- It is impossible for Aurora Police Detective Lee Catavu to fathom the number of hours he has spent trying to bring Timmothy Pitzen home.
Impossible to get the case out of his head. Impossible to give up on the little boy, who Catavu believes is alive and well — somewhere.
"This is a case I face every day when I come to work," Catavu told reporters on Friday, just one day shy of the second anniversary of the day Timmothy Pitzen left with his mother on a whirlwind vacation, and was never seen again.
On May 11, 2011, Timmothy was picked up from Greenman Elementary School in Aurora by his mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen. It was 8:35 a.m., and Fry-Pitzen told school officials that there had been a family emergency. She had to take the boy and leave. But, there was no emergency.
Instead, Fry-Pitzen took the boy on a trip. He spent the days leading up to his disappearance at the Brookfield Zoo, a water park in Gurnee, and finally, to a Wisconsin Dells resort where the last known sighting of Timmothy was caught on tape. On May 13, at 11:15 a.m., the mother and son were seen checking out of the Kalahari Resort there.
Two days later, Fry-Pitzen would be found dead in a Rockford hotel, and Timmothy would be gone. A haunting note was left in his wake: Timmothy was safe, with someone who loved him — and he would never be found, Fry-Pitzen wrote.
Catavu has speculated that this statement is true, and he hopes that is the case.
"There is not a single person in her life that believes Amy Pitzen has hurt that child," Catavu said.
And, until he has evidence proving otherwise, he will continue to work the case as if Timmothy is somewhere out there, waiting to come home.
Timmothy knows his address, his telephone number, and where his grandparents live. Catavu said he hopes someday the now 8-year-old boy will be able to reach out.
"We remain very steadfast that he is out there," Catavu said. "We very badly want to find him."
Leads and possible sightings continue to trickle in from callers across the country at a rate of about five a month. Nothing has panned out yet, but detectives aren't giving up hope. The recent recovery of three Cleveland women, who were held captive for more than a decade, has restored Catavu's faith that if Timmothy is out there, he will be found.
"It really gives us all a lot of hope," Catavu said.
Detectives continue to look for several missing items Fry-Pitzen purchased for her son at a Shopko store in Racine, Wis., at 11:15 a.m. on May 12 while on their way to the Wisconsin Dells. Those items, which include clothes and toys, have never been recovered. Similar items are available to be viewed on the Aurora Police Department website.
A cell phone and I-Pass device are also missing, Catavu said.
Fry-Pitzen last used the phone around 1:30 p.m. on May 13 to call several loved ones after leaving the Dells. Catavu said nothing about those calls, made from the Sterling-Rock Falls area, raised alarms. Timmothy was either heard in the background, or had direct conversation with the callers, and seemed alive and well at that point in time. But that's where Timmothy's trail turns cold.
Detectives said later that day, around 7:25 p.m., Fry-Pitzen purchased paper, pens and envelopes in Winnebago, Ill. Thirty minutes later, she was spotted alone at a Winnebago grocery store buying milk and crackers. At 11:15 p.m., Fry-Pitzen checked herself into a Rockford hotel where she committed suicide. She was found dead at 12:30 p.m. the next afternoon.
Friends and family members have all been re-interviewed. As have fellow church members, school friends, and those from Fry-Pitzen's distant past. Catavu said everyone has been cooperative, but that doesn't mean there is not more work to do.
"The most important thing is to keep vigilant. To keep our eyes peeled," he said.
Detectives continue to work with police departments across Illinois, hoping to tie trace evidence found on Fry-Pitzen's vehicle to specific locations, helping pinpoint where the two had traveled.
The vehicle had allegedly traveled on a paved road with a gravel shoulder, located near a meadow. No corn pollen was found, helping detectives narrow the search. Soil and gravel samples are being taken from multiple locations across northwestern Illinois, with hopes that someday they will find a match, Catavu said.
"There are lots of working theories on the table," Catavu said. "...but whoever she left him with, she was confident no one would be able to locate him."
While there was no indication that Fry-Pitzen was out to harm her son, the same can't be said for her intent to harm herself. Detectives said that Fry-Pitzen had not taken her anti-depressant medication when she scooped Timmothy up from school, and that she had attempted suicide at least once in the past.
Though still married, the union was considered rocky, Catavu said friends had reported. According to husband Jim Pitzen, nothing seemed out of the ordinary on that May day, Catavu said.
Days prior to checking Timmothy out of school, Fry-Pitzen had returned from an annual vacation with a good friend. During that trip, detectives said Fry-Pitzen gave no indication of the plan that would unfold days later. "They said this whole thing came out of left field," Catavu said.
An inspection of Fry-Pitzen's home and work computers, as well as cell phone records, have yielded few clues. Catavu said nothing was striking about information gathered, and that Fry-Pitzen had not been in contact with anyone out of the ordinary prior to Timmothy's disappearance.
Will he ever find the boy? "I really hope so," Catavu said. Until then, he will spend each day with Timmothy on his mind.
"It can be frustrating when we hit walls," he said. But, while the case fades from public conscience, it will continue to plague Catavu's — until Timmothy comes home.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2013. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
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