The person who claimed to be long-lost Timmothy Pitzen is not the Illinois boy who vanished in 2011—but a 23-year-old man, the FBI confirmed through DNA testing on Thursday.
It’s not clear why Brian Michael Rini of Medina, Ohio, concocted the story, but a relative said he has been plagued by mental illness. He also has a criminal past.
“He’s been doing stupid stuff, not the serious, but stupid stuff for as long as I can remember,” his brother Jonathon Rini told WEWS.
“I hope he gets help and I hope he goes to prison for this. Or at least an institution,” Rini said.
Brian Rini appeared to be a battered and scared teenager when he approached strangers in Newport, Kentucky, on Wednesday, saying he had been kidnapped and held at a motel.
He identified himself as Timmothy, who went missing nearly eight years ago after his mother picked him up at his elementary school for a road trip. Timmothy’s mother, Amy Fryer-Pitzen, was found dead by suicide soon after, along with a note saying her son was with people who “would care for him and love him.” “You will never find him,” the note added.
Rini’s bogus claim raised hopes among Timmothy’s family that their agonizing wait to find out what happened to the child was going to have a happy ending.
But just a day later, investigators used a 24-hour DNA test to determine the person who surfaced in Newport was not Timmothy.
“We know that you are out there somewhere, Tim, and we will never stop looking for you, praying for you, and loving you,” Pitzen’s aunt Kara Jacobs said in a press conference after the DNA results were released.
The FBI said in a tweet: “To be clear, law enforcement has not and will not forget Timmothy, and we hope to one day reunite him with his family. Unfortunately, that day will not be today.”
Pitzen’s grandmother Alana Anderson said the family has been on “tenterhooks,” hopeful that their Timmothy was coming home.
“I feel so sorry for the young man who’s obviously had a horrible time and felt the need to say he was someone else in hope that they can find his family,” Anderson said.
On Wednesday, Rini told Campbell County police that he escaped two male kidnappers while they were staying at a Cincinnati Red Roof Inn and ran across a bridge just over the Ohio River before knocking on a car window to ask for help, authorities said.
“He walked up to my car and he went, ‘Can you help me? I just want to get home. Can you just please help me?’ And I asked him what was going on and he told me he’s been kidnapped,” a good Samaritan who called police told WCPO.
The Campbell County Sheriff’s Office immediately contacted other nearby law-enforcement agencies, including the FBI field office, and searched all of the Red Roof Inns in its jurisdiction, according to the police report.
Rini described his alleged captors as having “bodybuilder-type build” and were last seen in a “newer” Ford SUV with Wisconsin plates. Police were unable to find the described men. According to the police report, one of the men allegedly wearing Mountain Dew shirt and jeans was described as having “black curly hair... and a spider web tattoo on his neck,” while the other “is short in stature and had a snake tattoo on his arms.”
Newport Police confirmed they are looking into Rini’s claim of being kidnapped and acknowledged that he has given false statements in the past 24 hours when he claimed to be a kidnapped teenager. His motive is still unknown, and it’s unclear whether he’ll be charged with a crime.
The 23-year-old man has reportedly been arrested three times, once in 2015 for allegedly making false reports that involved an Ohio law-enforcement agency, according to the Medina Post. Along with three other men, Rini was also arrested in 2017 for allegedly hosting a party in Medina, Ohio, and causing over $1,250 of damage in a model home, according to The Medina Gazette.
“Although we are disappointed that this turned out to be a hoax, we remain diligent in our search for Timmothy, as our missing person’s case remains unsolved,” Aurora police spokesman Sgt. Bill Rowley said in a press conference Thursday, adding that they will be investigating “this hoax.”
The FBI tested genetic material belonging to the man claiming to be Pitzen and compared them to a DNA sample from the missing teen, a spokesperson told The Daily Beast, adding that the results were “top priority.”
“We still have no confirmation of the identity of the person located, but hope to have something later this afternoon or early this evening,” an Aurora Police spokesperson told The Daily Beast. “Unless or until his identity is confirmed, we have no official statement to mark, and nothing of substance to add.”
On May 11, 2011, 43-year-old Amy Fry-Pitzen checked her 6-year-old son out of his elementary school for a three-day vacation, which included a trip to a local zoo and a waterpark. She did not inform the boy’s father of her intentions. The pair were last seen at the Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Three days later, Fry-Pitzen was found dead inside a motel room and her son missing. Aurora police told The Daily Beast on Thursday that the mother who openly struggled with depression suggested in her note that she might have “dropped her son off with a friend.”
“We never forgot, never stopped thinking about him every day, stayed in touch with the police,” Anderson, told NBC Chicago on Wednesday when she heard the news. “It just went cold and I just prayed that when he was old enough that he would remember us and contact us—that was kind of the best I could hope for for a long time.”