Authorities say a teen boy in Kentucky on Wednesday claimed to have just escaped from two kidnappers and identified himself as a child who went missing almost eight years ago in Illinois.
Timmothy Pitzen was 6 years old when he disappeared in 2011, and family members continued to believe he was alive and ask for any information that could lead to his whereabouts.
"I know that he’s out there," his aunt Kara Jacobs told the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children last year. "We just have to find him."
On Wednesday, authorities said someone claiming to be 14 said he was Timmothy Pitzen and that he'd escaped from two men who had been keeping him in captivity, according to a police report. The teen was spotted in a Newport, Kentucky, neighborhood by residents who called police, a Cincinnati Fox affiliate reported. Neighbors at first thought he looked suspicious, then realized he was bruised and appeared scared, they told the station.
One woman told a local news reporter that the teen said his name was Timmothy Pitzen and that he had been traded among people for years and only wanted a good home.
When officers arrived, he told them he had run away from two men, who were staying at a Red Roof Inn — but he didn't know where it was, according to a report from Sharonville, Ohio, police. Law enforcement agencies throughout the area were investigating motels for any men who matched the description Timmothy provided, and the FBI said it was assisting in the missing child investigation.
On May 11, 2011, Amy Fry-Pitzen checked her son out of school in Aurora, Illinois, and the pair spent the next two days driving through multiple states on vacation. His father, Jim Pitzen, reported them missing.
Timmothy was last seen in surveillance video checking out of a water park in Wisconsin on May 13, 2011. The next day, his mother was found dead in a motel room in Rockford, Illinois. Investigators said she had killed herself, and left a note stating that Timmothy was safe — but he would never be found.
Family members said in the years that followed that Fry-Pitzen had a history of depression and that her marriage was failing. Jacobs added that they did not believe she would have hurt her child.
"She just wouldn’t have," Jacobs said in the NCMEC video. "She had nothing but kindness and consideration for other people in her life."