In the wake of a man who allegedly posed as missing child Timmothy Pitzen, here are three others accused of similar acts

By Steve Helling
April 08, 2019 01:08 PM

It’s a bizarre twist in a heartbreaking story.

Eight years after 6-year-old Timmothy Pitzen vanished, someone came forward and claimed to be the boy. Authorities soon realized that the person who came forward isn’t a 14-year-old boy, but is a 23-year-old man named Brian Rini.

The Cincinnati FBI confirmed that Rini has been charged with making false statements to a federal agent.

A criminal complaint against Rini obtained by PEOPLE alleges the suspect claimed to have been held captive for years while being physically and sexually abused.

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

According to the complaint, Rini allegedly refused to submit his fingerprints after he was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital but ultimately agreed to a DNA swab, which returned a hit for him and revealed the alleged hoax.

The complaint alleges that after being confronted about his actual identity, Rini said he’d heard Pitzen’s story on ABC’s 20/20. (Rini is being represented by the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Cincinnati, but nobody in the office was available to comment on his behalf.)

It’s a rare occurrence, but there have been a handful of times where people have posed as missing children. Here are three of those cases.

1. Frédéric Pierre Bourdin and Nicholas Barclay

In 1994, Nicholas Barclay was playing basketball with his friends in San Antonio, Texas. The 13-year-old boy vanished on his way home. Three years later, in 1997, French-born Frederic Bourdin called authorities from a group home in Spain.

Although Bourdin had brown eyes and spoke with a thick French accent, he managed to convince Barclays’ family that he was their blue-eyed son. He claimed that he had escaped from a child prostitution ring — and that the traffickers had altered his eye color.

Incredibly, Barclay’s family believed that he was their missing child. Bourdin lived with Barclay’s family for nearly 5 months, despite the fact that he was in his 20s at the time. He was eventually arrested for perjury and falsifying documents. He served five years in prison.

In a 2008 interview with the New Yorker, Bourdin said that he craved attention.

“People always say to me, ‘Why don’t you become an actor?'” he told the magazine. “I think I would be a very good actor, like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone. But I don’t want to play somebody. I want to be somebody.”

Frédéric Bourdin pretended to be Nicholas Barclay
Frédéric Bourdin (left) and Nicholas Barclay (right)
| Credit: Jean-Louis Duzert/AFP/Getty Images; San Antonio Police Department

2. Datwon Fowler and Patricia Fowler

In 2016, caseworkers from the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families in Pennsylvania removed four children from a home, alleging that the kids had been neglected. As the agency continued investigating the case, they learned that a set of twins should have been living in the house — but they hadn’t been seen since at least 2006.

Ivon and Inisha Fowler were born in 1998, but not much is known about the twins. Police were unable to find any trace of the children using their birthdates or Social Security numbers. There was no record of them at school.

Shortly after police began investigating, they received calls and text messages from someone claiming to be Ivon. Police soon determined that the message was actually sent by the twins’ older brother, Datwon Fowler.

Datwon was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice. His defense attorney, Richard McCague, told the Associated Press that the Datwon sent the message at his mother’s request, in the hopes that police would stop looking for the twins. The phone used was later found in his possession.

The charges against Datwon were later dropped. His mother, Patricia Fowler, pleaded guilty to making false statements to police in connection with the investigation. She was sentenced to four years of probation. The twins remain missing.

Datwon Fowler (left) and Ivon Fowler (right)
| Credit: Penn Hills Police Department(2)

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Arthur Hutchins and Walter Collins

In March 1928, a 9-year-old boy named Walter Collins vanished from his neighborhood in Los Angeles. For five months, investigators followed leads and collected evidence, but were unable to find the missing boy.

That August, a boy claiming to be Collins turned himself in to police in Illinois. He was flown back to Los Angeles and reunited with his mother, Christine Collins.

But the story wasn’t over. Christine took one look at the boy and said that he wasn’t her son. The LAPD captain assured her that the boy was Walter, but he looked different because he had aged. As Christine grew more adamant that the boy wasn’t her son, the LAPD captain had her involuntarily committed to a mental hospital. (She later sued for $10,800, which she won.)

While Christine was in the mental hospital, the imposter finally admitted that he was really Arthur Hutchins Jr., a 12-year-old from Iowa. He had run away from home to escape his father and stepmother. When he realized his resemblance to Walter, he opted for a free trip to California.

Hutchins was sent back home. The real Walter Collins was never found.