The Pitzen family had its issues. Mom struggled with depression. Dad had multiple reasons to be angry with Mom. Ex-husbands muddied the whole situation. Despite it all, six-year-old Timmothy Pitzen was, by all standards, a happy child. There didn’t appear to be any reason to fear for his well-being. When his mother checked him out of kindergarten early one day, the school let her go. Picking up her son was her right, after all. But then, Timmothy disappeared.
Timmothy Pitzen was known as an outgoing, cheerful boy. Though his mother, Amy, had been divorced three times before marrying his father, Jim, and she had a history of mental illness, there was nothing to suggest that little Timmothy was ever in danger. It was said that Amy adored her son. However, when Timmothy’s mother unexpectedly picked him up early from school and set out on a 500-mile road trip, it quickly became apparent that a nightmarish disaster had been brewing beneath the surface for some time.
Timmothy Pitzen: No Childhood is Perfect
No one can boast a flawless childhood. Or perfect parents. This was undoubtedly true regarding 6-year-old Timmothy Pitzen’s family situation. According to Bryan Smith of Chicago, Amy and Jim Pitzen had many things to fight about and hashed these stressors during their seven-year marriage. There was a time when Amy insisted on spending her birthday in the Bahamas with a friend rather than with her family. Then there were the various times that Amy would get angry at Jim for failing to run errands she’d asked him to complete. But it got more serious than that.
Amy Fry-Pitzen was divorced three times before marrying Jim, which was bound to complicate matters in one way or another. And it did. There was a time when Amy had lunch with one of her ex-husbands along with texts discussing a meetup. Jim found out and was livid. “If you want to be with that guy, go be with him,” he reportedly told his wife. “We’ll get a divorce, and I don’t care how much money your dad has; I’ll find a way to get custody of Timmothy.”
The Suicidal Intentions of Timmothy Pitzen’s Mother.
Sometimes, words spoken in the heat of anger dissipate as the situation cools. However, when Jim threatened to fight for sole responsibility for their son, Amy had every reason to believe him. Though she was known as ‘affable’ and ‘smart,’ she struggled with mental illness that, most of the time, she managed to keep under wraps. But, two attempts at suicide betrayed the seriousness of her state.
On another occasion, she nearly overdosed on sleeping pills. She ended up fracturing a vertebrae after sliding down the steep embankment where she’d parked her car dangerously close to the edge. “Oh, I’m better,” she reportedly told Jim after the incident. “I’m back on my meds, and I’ve seen a couple of doctors. They’ve changed stuff around, and I’m feeling perfect.” It seemed that was that. But it wasn’t.
Most 6-year-old boys get in trouble at school occasionally, and Timmothy was no exception. Hannah Soukup of the Observer records that one of his kindergarten classmates said that Timmothy wanted to talk to everyone. The classmate said that they were a quiet child but was quickly drawn into conversation by Timmothy’s charisma. The pair reportedly got in trouble once and were punished by being exiled to ‘quiet time.’ Even then, they continued to talk, creating a bond that would be snatched away all too soon and sorely missed for a lifetime. “He was always happy-go-lucky and didn’t let small things bother him,” Timmothy’s childhood friend reminisced. “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.”
On May 11, 2011, Chicago reports that Jim Pitzen dropped his son off at kindergarten as usual, telling him he loved him before “[h]e watched his son, in his T-shirt and green shorts, bound away, his Spider-Man backpack bouncing.” However, Amy Fry-Pitzen arrived at Greenman Elementary School in Aurora, Illinois, not long after, Crystal Bonvillian of Kiro7 reports. After Fry-Pitzen checked him out under the guise of a family emergency, mother and son embarked on a road trip. They went to the Brookfield Zoo and the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells.
One account reports that Timmothy could be heard in the background sounding like any average child and saying he was hungry.
After that, Timmothy disappeared, vanishing from his mother’s side.
Timmothy Pitzen Safe… But Where?
Fry-Pitzen was next seen on security footage entering a Family Dollar in Winnebago, Illinois, to purchase stationery. Timmothy was conspicuously absent. Fry-Pitzen proceeded to check into a hotel after 11 pm.
She left a cluster of suicide notes in her wake. A report by Rob Stafford and Lisa Capitanini published in November of 2022 by NBC Chicago records that in the notes Fry-Pitzen wrote to friends and family, she said that she never felt at home in the world and that she used to think that being with Timmothy was the answer. Still, not even that was enough when it came down to it. She also wrote a note to the motel staff, apologizing that they would have to clean up her mess. She mentioned her husband in another, seizing one final opportunity to hurl hurtful words in his direction. “Fry-Pitzen was angry at me and took it out,” he said. “She took everything away from me that day. She made a very, very big point that I’m going to hurt you worse than you hurt me.”
But the content of these notes merely scratched the surface and was nothing compared to the most frightening one that talked about Timmothy. According to Kiro7, the letter said: “You will never find him.”
According to the Observer, one of Fry-Pitzen’s notes claimed that Timmothy was in a safe place. The statement offered little comfort in light of the other notes in which she admitted just how severe her struggle with mental illness had become. An investigation of her vehicle revealed blood, but it was determined that this was from a nosebleed Timmothy had experienced at an earlier date and likely not the result of violence. Kiro7 reports that even Jim Pitzen believed it highly unlikely that his wife would have harmed their son.
According to Chicago, despite the anguish Fry-Pitzen had caused him, he had ‘Loving Mother’ engraved on her headstone. And yet, there was still no sign of Timmothy. Each lead resulted in another heartbreaking dead end during the years that followed.
At one time, the sighting of a 9-year-old boy at a Denny’s who matched Timmothy’s description was investigated. It was quickly discovered that he was where he was supposed to be and that the man with him was his father.
Fake Timmothy’s Pitzen
Years later, another potential Timmothy sighting emerged, this one far more bizarre. In this case, a young man who was suffering from psychiatric disturbance claimed to be Timmothy Pitzen when approached by police. “‘Can you help me?’” one witness claims the young man asked. “‘I just want to get home. Please help me.’” He went on to describe having been kidnapped and held hostage by “two men with tattoos who looked like bodybuilders,” a story that would have made sense considering no one had heard from Timmothy for years.
Fry-Pitzen’s sister, Kara, was ready to believe it. “I completely got my hopes up,” Kara admitted during an interview. “I thought it was real, 100 percent. It just didn’t occur to me that it could not be him. I was thinking things like, Who’s going to pick him up? Does he need clothes? I’m, like, packing my stuff.” The police and the news outlets were also on the verge of celebrating the discovery of a case that had nearly gone cold. However, disappointment ensued again when the man’s DNA did not match Timmothy’s. It came out that the disturbed young man had heard about the boy’s disappearance and was parroting back the details. The family was crushed for the umpteenth time. Timmothy’s aunt openly sobbed upon receiving the news, and Pitzen retreated into his home with the blinds drawn to hide from the overly zealous reporters.
Even as the years wore on, the pain never genuinely dissipated for Jim Pitzen, and the intermittent false alarms didn’t help. NBC Chicago reports that the ping-pong back and forth between hope and crippling letdown took their toll. He summarized the emotional turmoil in these words: “Very unhappy. Very destructive… mentally, they find Timmothy, yes. Then, it brings you back to ground level. Back to therapy and deal with everything and false hope, and I want my son.” Pitzen believes that Timmothy has been living out his life elsewhere even though a thorough search of Fry-Pitzen’s things provides no evidence of a covert adoption.
Nevertheless, Pitzen has an ax to grind with the people he is sure are raising his child. “I want them to know when Timmothy is found, and we find out who you are, there will be another knock at your door. Hopefully, it’s the police… I’ve thought about many things, and I know what I’m capable of, and I know if they sat this close, yeah, that wouldn’t be good.”