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The Strange Disappearance of Timmothy Pitzen

This case has remained unsolved for 12 years, 6 months, and 25 days.

The disappearance of Timmothy Pitzen has been a mystery since it happened back in 2011. The 6-year-old boy was last seen on May 13, 2011, when his mother took him out of school, claiming there was a family emergency. 

Over the next few days, they traveled to multiple locations, including a zoo and several water parks. On May 14, Timmothy’s mother was found dead in a motel room from an apparent suicide, but Timmothy was nowhere to be found.

Timmothy’s disappearance gained national attention, and numerous searches and investigations were conducted over the years. In 2019, a person claiming to be Timmothy Pitzen approached a stranger in Kentucky, stating that he had escaped from kidnappers who had been holding him for years. However, DNA testing confirmed that the person was not Timmothy Pitzen.

As of today, Timmothy’s whereabouts remain unknown, and the case remains unsolved. Was he given away to another family, as his mother’s suicide note suggested, or was he murdered, as many believe? What happened to Timmothy Pitzen?

Table of Contents

About Timmothy Pitzen

Timmothy Pitzen was born on October 18, 2004 in Aurora, IL. He was somewhat of a miracle baby as his father, James Pitzen, had been told that he was sterile after a bout of Hodgkin’s lymphoma in his 20s. He and his wife, Amy Fry-Pitzen, had understood that children were not in the books for them due to James’ cancer battle. 

Miraculously however, Amy (43 at the time) fell pregnant and the two married before moving to Aurora, IL and giving birth to little Timmothy there. Amy’s sister, Kara, said, “Timmothy was such a happy baby.” She called Amy and Timmothy “two peas in a pod” and “practically inseparable.” Amy’s mother, Alana Anderson, agreed: “She just adored that little boy, and he just adored her.”

A photograph of Timmothy Pitzen.
A photograph of Timmothy Pitzen (NBC Chicago).

James described his son as a “very energetic, a very fun-loving little boy.” Timmothy also loved the family pets (several cats and a dog), and he was said to love school. Overall, there wasn’t much in Timmothy’s life that would suggest that he’d end up going missing. He was a happy, healthy, fun-loving 6-year-old — but all that was about to change.

The Disappearance

On May 11, 2011, James dropped Timmothy off at Greenman Elementary School around 7:45 AM. He didn’t know it then, but it would be the last time he saw his son alive. After saying goodbye to his son, James dropped Amy off at her job a few blocks away, then headed to work himself. 

Because it was a half-day at school where all the kids got out early, James headed back to Greenman Elementary around 10:30 AM. However, when he arrived at the school, he was told that Amy had returned to take Timmothy out of school around 8:30 AM due to a “family emergency.” 

Security camera footage from Greenman Elementary showing Amy taking Timmothy out of school.
Security camera footage from Greenman Elementary showing Amy taking Timmothy out of school (NBC Chicago).

James wasn’t aware of any family emergency and he immediately tried calling Amy. She didn’t pick up. He tried calling over and over, and still couldn’t get a hold of his wife. When he returned home, he noticed that Amy’s car was missing from the driveway.

Concerned, he called his wife’s sister, Kara, and asked if she’d heard from Amy. Kara responded, “I’m sure she’s fine. If you’ve been fighting, just give her some time to cool off.” The couple had indeed gotten into an argument about a sudden vacation that Amy had taken to the Bahamas the week before, which James has acknowledged. 

Missing Persons Report Filed

Deciding to heed Kara’s advice, James stopped trying to contact Amy and let the day and night pass. However, the next day when he’d still heard nothing from Amy, he contacted the Aurora Police Department (APD) to report his wife and son missing

According to James, the APD didn’t take the disappearance seriously at first. After all, it had only been about 24 hours and Timmothy was with his mother. 

Unused Depression Medications

Not getting much help from the APD, James scoured the family home for any clues that might point to where Amy had taken Timmothy. When he searched the medicine cabinet, he saw that Amy’s containers of medication for depression (Wellbutrin and Lexapro) were full and unused. Amy had also suffered from a bout of vertigo in the days leading up to the disappearance.

“I’m scared for both of them,” James said, “Once I found out that she hadn’t taken her medication.” However, when asked if he was worried about Amy harming Timothy, he responded, “No, she would never do anything to harm him.” 

A photograph of Amy and Timmothy Pitzen.
A photograph of Amy and Timmothy Pitzen (NBC Chicago).

The Search Begins

When Amy’s work was contacted, they said that she’d claimed not to be feeling well and had left early that morning. After that, the school surveillance footage captured her taking Timmothy out of class. 

However, because authorities had not deemed the incident to be a kidnapping — a son was with his mother, after all — not much was known about what happened in the days following. It wouldn’t be until later that authorities started looking at security camera footage, bank records, and cell phone data to figure out what happened during those several days.

The Brookfield Zoo

After Amy and Timmothy walked home together from school, they got in Amy’s car and began driving toward Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, IL, a town about 30 miles away from Aurora. Her car broke down on the way, but the mechanic was kind enough to drop her and Timmothy off at the zoo while the car was being fixed.

At around 3 PM, Amy and Timmothy left the zoo and collected their now-fixed car. Instead of going home though, Amy drove them to the Key Lime Cove Water Park in Gurnee, IL where they spent the night.

Security camera footage from Key Lime Cove Water Park with Amy and Timmothy.
Security camera footage from Key Lime Cove Water Park with Amy and Timmothy (NBC Chicago).

May 12, 2011: Wisconsin Dells Water Park

The next day, Amy drove Timmothy to a water park in Wisconsin Dells, WI — a distance of around 160 miles away. They stopped on the way to buy some toys and clothes around 11:30 AM. At 2:20 PM, she bought gas near Johnson Creek, WI. That night, they stayed at the Kalahari Water Park, which also included a hotel. 

May 13, 2011: Phone Calls Made

On Friday, May 13, Amy and Timmothy checked out of the water park. It had been three days since she’d left with Timmothy and people were trying to contact her repeatedly. According to cell data, Amy pulled over somewhere in the Sterling/Dixon/Rockfall area to respond to some calls. 

Realizing that she couldn’t ignore her friends and family forever, Amy reached out to police and told them that she was fine and there was nothing to worry about. Amy also reached out to James’ brother, Charles, who said he spoke to Timmothy at that time, around 12:30 PM. 

According to the uncle, Timmothy said he was a little hungry, but overall, he was fine and happy. Charles also said that Amy told him everything was all right and she just “needed a break.”

When Charles suggested that Amy and Timmothy come to Waterloo where he lived, he said that Amy replied, “What, don’t you trust me? I’m not going to hurt myself. I’m not going to hurt Tim.” Knowing what happens in this case, the statement was a prescient one. She also reportedly said, “Timmothy is mine. I’ll do with him what I want.” After making the calls, Amy drove to Rockford, IL to find a hotel to stay for the night.

Another photograph of Amy and Timmothy Pitzen.
Another photograph of Amy and Timmothy Pitzen (NBC Chicago).

May 14, 2011: Amy Discovered Dead

In the morning on Saturday, a housekeeper for the motel that Amy was staying at went to go and clean the room. However, when she went to open the door, it was locked with a chain from the inside. Peeking in, the housekeeper saw blood all over the room and immediately contacted police.

A few hours later, James received a knock at his front door. Upon seeing it was two police officers, he was originally happy, thinking that they’d found Amy and Timmothy and were coming to report the good news. Instead, he received the worst news of his life: his wife was dead and his son was missing.

A map of many of the known locations that Amy visited in the days after she took Timmothy from school.
A map of many of the known locations that Amy visited in the days after she took Timmothy from school.

The Investigation

At first, authorities thought that someone had murdered Amy because of the gruesomeness of the crime scene. Blood was everywhere and they thought it had to be a homicide. However, upon further investigation and the fact that the motel door was locked from the inside, Amy’s death was soon ruled a suicide. (As an aside, if you’re struggling yourself, please reach out to the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.)

Amy had also left a suicide note, further solidifying the idea that it was a suicide rather than a murder. She even apologized to the housekeeper about the mess she knew she would be leaving behind for them to clean up. She also had some choice comments to say about James, who described them as “not very nice” things to say.

When it came to Timmothy, Amy wrote, “Tim is somewhere safe with people who love him and who will take care of him. You will never find him.” And to this day, that holds true. No one has seen or heard from Timmothy (that we know of) and many suspect that the boy is deceased.

An image of Amy Fry-Pitzen’s suicide note.
An image of Amy Fry-Pitzen’s suicide note (Living Magazine).

Items Located

Upon investigating the scene, authorities located over-the-counter children’s medication in the motel room that they suspect could have been used to drug or sedate Timmothy. They also found one of Timmothy’s shirts, but none of his other toys or the items that Amy had purchased for him since they’d left home several days earlier.

More Letters Arrive

In addition to the suicide note left in the motel, Amy sent letters to her mother and to a friend. It’s not clear what those notes contained or if they had any additional information pointing to where Timmothy might’ve been.

Additionally, Amy had other suicide attempts in the past. Her sister, Kara, said, “I knew she was depressed. I knew she had challenges. I didn’t know that it was as bad, obviously, as it was.” While some people dispute whether Amy did in fact take her own life or not, authorities have conclusively ruled the death as a suicide.

Troubles in the Pitzen Marriage

There were reports that the Pitzen marriage was on the rocks and that they were considering splitting up. Amy’s biggest fear was reportedly that she wouldn’t be given custody of Timmothy because of her mental health struggles, which she was supposed to take medication for. Some suggest this could’ve been a motive to murder Timmothy — so that James couldn’t have him, either. 

Blood Found in Amy’s Car

A substantial amount of blood was found in the back of Amy’s SUV. Authorities weren’t sure whose blood it was, and upon testing it, they learned it was Timmothy’s blood. Soil was also found in the back of the car near where the blood was located.

However, some family members suggest that this blood could have been from a bad nosebleed that Timmothy had a month or so before he went missing. James, Timmothy’s father, confirmed that the boy had a bad nosebleed in the car before he went missing, so this is a possible explanation for the blood.

Amy’s car was taken into the lab for testing.
Amy’s car was taken into the lab for testing (NBC Chicago).

Sedimentary Analysis

A sedimentary analysis (an examination of rocks, dirt, and sand) was conducted on Amy’s car. It revealed that the vehicle was stopped for a time on a gravel road near an asphalt secondary road that had been treated with glass road-marking beads

Additionally, this area was near a grassy meadow or field with few trees and no corn, and with a pond or small stream nearby. Analysts think that the field is somewhere in Northwestern Illinois, specifically Lee and Whiteside counties. Other counties however cannot be ruled out. 

Despite this information, it’s not enough to narrow down areas for ground searches at this time, according to authorities. Some individual searchers and volunteers have conducted searches in fields matching these parameters, but nothing has been found of Timmothy. 

Missing Items

Authorities have stated that there are a number of missing items that they’re asking outdoorsmen and hunters to be on the lookout for, including a Spider-Man backpack along with toys and a tube of toothpaste that Amy had bought before Timmothy went missing. 

They’re also searching for Amy’s I-Pass from her car, which might be able to show where she went in the days after she left the school with Timmothy. Many of these items remain missing to this day, and could help in the investigation if they’re ever located.

Amy’s phone was eventually located in 2013, but it didn’t contain any evidence that suggested a secret adoption or communications with an adoptive family. A check of her computers, phones, and financial records also didn’t support the idea that a secret adoption or handoff had taken place. 

Theories on What Happened

In this case, there really are only two main theories about what happened to Timmothy Pitzen: Amy killed him or he was given to another family. The Pitzen family wants to believe that he is still out there somewhere, although many authorities and searchers believe he is deceased.

Amy Killed Timmothy

The main theory that many people have is that Amy killed Timmothy and buried him somewhere before killing herself. The passage in the suicide note about Timmothy being with another family was used to throw off law enforcement and James, some believe, and Timmothy has been dead since before Amy checked into the motel in Rockford.

Indeed, there is some circumstantial evidence that Amy killed Timmothy, including the blood in the car, the sedimentary analysis that points to the SUV being driven in a field, and most importantly the fact that Timmothy has never been found. 

Kara even said of her sister, Amy, “My sister loved kids, but she didn’t want to have them herself. She didn’t think that was in her path.” Some have suggested that because Amy never wanted children, she eventually snapped and ended up killing Timmothy and then herself. Kara also stated, “[Amy] was worried that her losing custody of Tim was a real possibility and that was just not something that she could handle.”

However, there isn’t enough evidence to conclusively say that Timmothy Pitzen is deceased, and he is still considered a missing person. 

James, Timmothy, and Amy Pitzen in a family photo.
James, Timmothy, and Amy Pitzen in a family photo (NBC Chicago).

Amy Gave Timmothy to Someone

Others have suggested that Timmothy was handed off to another family or to caretakers shortly before Amy’s suicide. Kara, Amy’s sister, believes that Timmothy was handed off to someone near Dubuque, IA:

“We spent a lot of time on Route 20 back and forth when we were young, visiting our grandparents, our aunt and uncle. Amy actually lived with our grandparents in Dubuque for a period of time in the early 90s. She knew people there, she met people in Iowa. I believe that whatever happened was a connection that she made [in Dubuque].”

Kara, Amy’s Sister (Source: NBC Chicago)

James, Timmothy’s father, also believes that Timmothy is still alive out there somewhere, being raised by another family: “In my whole mind, I know he’s here somewhere.” And it’s true that Timmothy might still be out there. 

Recently, a woman was found in Puerto Rico after having been missing for over 30 years from Pennsylvania. Another woman was found in 2017 after being missing for over 40 years. I guess my point is that stranger things have happened and it’s possible that Timmothy is still out there somewhere.

Timmothy Pitzen sliding down a waterslide.
Timmothy Pitzen sliding down a waterslide (CNN).

What Do I Think Happened?

I believe this case has garnered so much media attention because it has a small child that went missing and has never been seen again. These cases tend to stick with people because of the innocence of the victims; they did nothing to deserve what happened to them. That’s not to say that other victims aren’t innocent, only that children are often viewed in a category of their own when it comes to true crime.

Timmothy is Likely Deceased

As much as it pains me to say, I think it’s likely that Timmothy was murdered by Amy due to the amount of circumstantial evidence left behind: the blood in the car, the dirt on the wheels and inside the SUV, and the well-thought-out plans that Amy set in motion. 

Amy intentionally waited to take Timmothy out of school until James was gone and she could go driving off with her son without her husband being aware until hours later. She also refused to answer his phone calls, and only called people back when it became clear that the authorities were going to get involved in the search. Her unsolicited comment to her brother-in-law also seems suspicious in light of what happened: “What, don’t you trust me? I’m not going to hurt myself. I’m not going to hurt Tim.” 

An age-progressed picture of Timmothy Pitzen.
An age-progressed picture of Timmothy Pitzen (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children).

But It’s Possible He’s Still Out There

That being said, stranger cases have happened, like the ones I listed earlier about people being located after decades of being missing. There is a chance that Timmothy is out there somewhere still, although he’d have to be in an extremely isolated community or family with little access to the internet. 

After all, Timmothy’s case is one of the more famous ones in the United States and age-progressed pictures are all over missing persons sites. “If [Timmothy] sees this, I’d tell him to come back home. There’s a lot of people waiting back here for him,” said one of Timmothy’s friends to the Chicago Tribune. All it would take would be for him to stumble across one page, recognize himself in the pictures or content, and contact authorities.

Case Outlook

Ultimately, this case will only be put to rest once we find Timmothy, dead or alive. If he’s already gone, I think finding his remains is going to be a very difficult task, even with the narrowing-down of search areas thanks to the sedimentary analysis. Regardless, the Pitzen family deserves answers and the truth about what happened to Timmothy. I hope that they one day get it.

Case Updates

Over the years, many people have reported sightings of Timmothy Pitzen, but none of these reports ever panned out. There have, however, been other updates in the case over the years.

October 2013: Amy’s Cell Phone Located

In 2013, Amy’s cell phone was located along Route 78 in western Illinois. Unfortunately, police said that it contained no meaningful clues and has not led to Timmothy’s location.

April 2019: Timmothy Pitzen Found?

In 2019, a man came forward claiming to be Timmothy Pitzen. Although there was a flurry of media covering the situation, it turned out that the man claiming to be Timmothy was too old (he was 23 when Timmothy would have been 14), and was not in fact the missing Aurora boy

The culprit allegedly had a history of mental illness including Asperger’s syndrome, ADHD, and bipolar disorder which may have contributed to him claiming that he was Timmothy Pitzen. He was sentenced to two years in jail for aggravated identity theft and released in May 2022.

Do You Have Information?

When Timmothy Pitzen went missing, he was 4’2 and weighed about 70 lbs. with brown hair and brown eyes. There is currently a $5,000 reward for information leading to Timmothy. If you have any information about where he might be, please contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at (800) 843–5678 or the Aurora Police Department at (630) 256–5500.

A missing poster for Timmothy Pitzen from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
A missing poster for Timmothy Pitzen from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Cold Case Questions

  • What do you think happened to Timmothy Pitzen?
  • Do you think Timmothy is still alive out there somewhere?
  • Why do you think Amy chose to commit suicide the way she did?

Tell me your thoughts about this case in the comments section below!

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One thought on “The Strange Disappearance of Timmothy Pitzen

  1. Hello, there is a scientist in britain or ireland who is doing Research about soil in a way i have never Heard of before. I Saw this women in a documentery about her work. May be she could help. Sorry for my Bad english- i am Not a native speaker. Best regards, Doris

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