Timmothy Pitzen, who would be 15 years old now, remains missing over nine years after his disappearance

By Benjamin VanHoose
December 18, 2020 11:03 AM
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Brian Michael Rini, the man who impersonated the long-missing Timmothy Pitzen and got a desperate family's hopes up, has been sentenced to prison.

On Tuesday, the 24-year-old Ohio man was sentenced to two years in prison for aggravated identity theft. Rini pleaded guilty in January, nine months after falsely claiming to the Pitzen family that he was Timmothy.

Timmothy's mother Amy took him from his kindergarten class in Aurora, Illinois, in May 2011 before dying by suicide days later and leaving behind a note explaining her son was "safe" and "you will never find him."

Timmothy, who was 6 years old when he disappeared, remains missing more than nine years later, and authorities continue to follow leads in the case, hoping to locate the boy, who would be 15 now.

In April 2019, Rini claimed a happy ending when he turned up on the street in Newport, Kentucky, and claimed to be a kidnap victim fleeing sex traffickers that he’d left behind in a Red Roof Inn. He gave as his name Timmothy Pitzen.

A DNA test then revealed Rini’s true identity as an ex-con recently released after being imprisoned for stealing and burglary. Rini had also previously tried to pass himself off as a sex trafficking victim. He told authorities he adopted Timmothy’s identity after learning about Timmothy’s case and his father’s devoted search on ABC News’ 20/20, according to a criminal complaint that charged him with making false statements to a federal agent.

Brian Michael Rini; Timmothy Pitzen
| Credit: Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction; Timmothy James Pitzen - Little Boy Lost/Facebook

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In January of this year, Timmothy’s aunt Kara Jacobs told PEOPLE: "We’re glad he’s pleading guilty and not wasting any more time of the courts and legal systems or police that have better things to do. We hope that he gets the help that he obviously needs, and we hope that the public continues to think about not only Timmothy’s case, but also any missing kids’ cases that may be in their area."

She added at the time that Timmothy’s family has "no doubt in our minds whatsoever" that he is still out there.

Immediately after the hoax was revealed, Timmothy’s father Jim Pitzen told PEOPLE the setback did not deter his determination to reunite with his son.

"I’m waiting for an answer from the police department, ‘Yes, this is Timmothy Pitzen.’ It’s a big waiting game I play all the time on when he’s coming home," he said. "The longer he’s away, the less time I’m going to have with my son. One thing you can’t do is make up for lost time. I guess he’s just missed more every day."

Anyone with information about Timmothy or any other missing child is urged to alert the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children at 1-800-THE LOST.