AN IMPOSTER who cruelly pretended to be Timmothy Pitzen three years ago continues to concern the missing boy's family who says they're "scared" the delinquent may terrorize them again.
Brian Rini made headlines in April 2019 when he approached a woman along a street in Newport, Kentucky, claiming to be Timmothy Pitzen, a six-year-old boy who vanished from Aurora, Illinois, in 2011.
Reciting the missing boy's full name and date of birth to police, Rini spun an elaborate tale about how he'd just escaped from a hotel room where he said two men had been holding him captive and sexually abusing him.
News of the apparent discovery spread fast, providing the Pitzen family a burst of hope that Timmothy – who would've been 14 by that time – was finally about to come home after eight long years.
But Rini's lie would quickly come undone shortly after he was taken to Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and confronted with a DNA test.
There he would admit his true identity: no, he wasn't the missing boy, but rather a 23-year-old man with a lengthy criminal record and a history of lying to the police.
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"It was devastating," Timmothy's aunt Jen West told The US Sun of the moment they were informed of Rini's confession.
"His lies brought up every single feeling we had initially when Tim disappeared.
"It was like reliving it all over again."
'WOULDN'T PUT ANYTHING PAST HIM'
Rini, who had twice previously made false claims about being a victim of juvenile sex trafficking, was initially charged with identity fraud and lying to the FBI.
He admitted to investigators he'd recently learned of Timmothy's disappearance on an episode of ABC's 20/20 and memorized his full name and date of birth to dupe police.
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His reason for doing so, he claimed, was that he "wished he had a father like Timmothy's because if he went missing, his father would just keep drinking," court documents show.
Rini struck a plea deal with prosecutors which saw his lying charge dropped in exchange for an admission of guilt.
He told the court: "I just want to say I'm sorry for what I've done, and I wish I could take it back but I can't. I'm sorry to the family."
Rini, of Medina, Ohio, received credit for time served and was released on probation just a few months after his trial in December 2020.
The thought of Rini roaming free unsettles Jen West, who lives in a neighboring town not far from where the imposter's family lives.
She told The US Sun: "He's an absolute garbage person who I would not put anything past.
"I try to protect myself so I didn't want to know what city he lives in now, but when he was released out of jail he moved to the city that neighbors mine.
"It's just not a great feeling," Jen added. "He's a wildcard.
"I mean, if you can do that to an entire family and lie for however long, I wouldn't put anything past him."
Jen's greatest fear is that her mother, who lives nearby, will one day find Rini standing at her front door, hellbent on causing the Pitzen even more unnecessary pain.
"My last name is different but my mom’s is the same. He could look her up, show up at her door tomorrow, and be like, ‘will you be my mom?’" she said.
"I'm happy he doesn't live anywhere near my brother [Timmothy's dad] … but the thought of him just roaming around somewhere nearby makes me feel uneasy.
"He didn't spend anywhere near enough time in jail, in my opinion."
A self-described eternal optimist, Jen said she was convinced Timmothy had been found when Rini posed as the boy in April 2019.
She had been cleaning her living room when she received a call from her mom, asking if she'd seen the news.
"They're reporting out of Cincinnati that they found him," Jen remembers her mother telling her.
"I was so excited," she said. "I 100% thought that it was him because who in 1000 years would ever say, 'I'm this missing kid and this is my birthday.'"
Jen was so excited, in fact, that she went out to lunch to treat herself to her favorite food and toast her relief that Timmothy was safe.
While the celebrations would prove to be premature, Timmothy's dad Jim Pitzen refused to allow himself to be excited by the development.
"He was very guarded," Jen reflected. "He just said, 'we'll see, we'll see. I'll believe it once they confirm it for me.'"
'THE MORE WE LEARNED, THE LESS WE BELIEVED'
Initially elated, as more information about the disheveled-looking male found in Newport came to light, the more hope the family lost that he could in fact be Timmothy.
For Jen, the excitement came to an end when a photo of the person claiming to be Timmothy surfaced on social media, showing what appeared to be an older-looking male wearing a hooded jacket standing in the middle of a street.
"The more of the story that came out, the more we started to go, 'Oh no'," Jen said.
"After we saw that picture [of Rini] that someone had taken out of their window we started to lose hope because he looked about 20 and had a stubble when Timmothy would've been about 14.
"Once I saw that picture I was completely devastated and deflated all over again," Jen continued.
"That guy is just a terrible human being for putting us all through that."
INTO THIN AIR
Eleven years on from his disappearance, Jen said she is positive her nephew is still alive and out there somewhere, despite his echoing silence.
Just six-years-old at the time, Timmothy vanished shortly after his mom, Amy Fry-Pitzen, took him out of his elementary school in Aurora, Illinois on the morning of May 11, 2011, telling school administrators there had been a "family emergency."
Only 45 minutes earlier, his father Jim had dropped the young boy off at the front gates, telling Timmothy he loved him as he hopped out of the car wearing his favorite Spider-Man backpack.
Over the next three days, Timmothy and his mom embarked on a spontaneous road trip spanning hundreds of miles, visiting a zoo and two water-park resorts across different state lines.
By May 14, Amy Pitzen would be found dead inside a motel room in Rockford, Illinois, around 80 miles from her family home.
The 43-year-old had slashed her wrists with a razor blade and overdosed on antihistamines.
Next to her body was a suicide note that said Timmothy was safe and in the care of others but would chillingly "never be found."
In the years since, true to his mother's word, no trace of Timmothy has ever been found.
What happened between his final sighting and his mother's death continues to perplex investigators and there have been few valuable leads in the case.
With no end to the family's long wait for answers in sight, Timmothy's aunt Jen West insisted: "I know he's still out there somewhere."
"Tim was Amy's whole world," she explained, "and deep down in my heart, I can't imagine her ever doing something to harm him physically.
"Of course, as time has gone on I've thought maybe she could have, but I always go back to thinking he's still out there alive somewhere.
"I think she gave him to someone who would love him and raise him … obviously uprooting his whole life and giving him away would hurt him too but I'm sure she didn't think of it that way."
STILL 'A PART OF US'
Speaking on the 11th anniversary of Timmothy's disappearance, Jen said the trauma of losing her nephew never leaves her but the grief is particularly amplified around this time of year.
The grief often comes to her in waves, she said, and can manifest in a number of different forms.
For several years after Timmothy's vanishing, the grief materialized in the form of anger, specifically toward Amy for the lives she shattered.
But now, Jen tends to feel sadness more than anything.
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"[Amy] You got your point across …we’re missing his whole life and he’s missing ours," she said, speaking through tears.
"He’s still very much a part of our lives. Even though he’s not physically with us I can’t send him a birthday gift or ask him how art class was, but my kids know about him and he’s very much a part of us still."
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