Into the Unknown: Timmothy Pitzen

The saga of Timmothy Pitzen's disappearance has fascinated people since the day it began. The furtive way his mother, Amy, collected him from school, the clandestine vacation she took him on through southern Wisconsin, and her suicide in a hotel room are all fuel for wild theories, and that's without mentioning her cryptic suicide note.

I've slipped into hyperbole here, but only a little. This story is intense.

Some of the content in this post may disturb or upset sensitive readers.

As this post deals with the disappearance of a child AND the suicide of his mother, this post may be particularly disturbing.

I do not post graphic pictures, but websites found by following links in this post may. Reader discretion is advised.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, there is help available. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 if you don't want to talk.

THE HISTORY: Full disclosure, I'm originally from Wisconsin. I was born in what locals call "The Up North," damn close to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This case holds a special place in my heart.

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin is a small city in south-central Wisconsin, home to fewer than 3,000 permanent residents. Within its bounds is the Dells of the Wisconsin River, an area formed about 15,000 years ago by glaciers during the last Ice Age. The Dells itself was never covered by ice, but the glacial melt created a massive inland lake. When this lake, known as Glacial Lake Wisconsin, drained, the Dells formed from the runoff.

In 1886, photographer H.H. Bennett's work in the Dells made the area famous, which was likely the beginning of the tourist draw into the area that continues to this day. His photo of Stand Rock, in particular, is notable and a damned fine photograph. It was used in promotional advertisements for the area for years and is an iconic image of Wisconsin's natural wonders.

H.H. Bennett's Stand Rock Photograph (1886), Wisconsin Historical Society.

Wisconsin Dells was founded in 1857 by Byron Kilbourn. Called Kilbourn City then, it became Wisconsin Dells in 1931 in direct response to the tourism in the area. The renaming made the city easier to identify to tourists, as it directly referenced the attractions they were there to see in the first place. Afterward, tourism only increased and quickly outstripped logging as the area's main industry.

Home to many water and theme parks, the population of the Dells area swells every summer as thousands pour in to enjoy the many amenities, as well as the area's striking natural beauty. One of the water parks popular in the Dells is Kalahari Resorts and Conventions, the largest indoor waterparks in the world. This massive complex is where our story begins.

THE MISSING: Timmothy James Pitzen was born to James Pitzen and Amy Fry-Pitzen on October 18, 2004. He had light brown hair and dark brown eyes. When he went missing, he was 4'2" and weighed 70 lbs. 

Timmothy's name is purposely spelled with two m's in the middle rather than the standard one. Amy wanted his name to be different than other boys with this name, as it is a very common moniker. Some accounts misspell it. His nicknames were Tim and Timmy.

On May 11, 2011, James went to Tim's school in Aurora, Illinois to pick him up at the end of the day and was told Amy had already picked him up, citing a family emergency. There was no such emergency, and James knew immediately something was wrong. Security camera footage shows the mother and son leaving together, and it's not apparent anything is wrong.

When he couldn't get a hold of Amy over the next few hours, James reported them both missing. No one could have imagined what twists and turns awaited in the investigation to come.

THE INVESTIGATION: What we know now is pieced together from receipts and security camera footage, as well as statements from witnesses who saw Amy and Timmothy together during their impromptu "vacation."

As soon as she picked Timmothy up from school, Amy took her 2004 Ford Expedition to a nearby repair shop. One of the employees of the shop drove Amy and Tim to the Brookfield Zoo, where they spent several hours. She returned to the shop and picked up her vehicle, then took Tim to Key Lime Cove in Gurnee, Illinois, another touristy city in the northern part of the state. The following morning, they left Gurnee and the state of Illinois behind, winding up at Kalahari Resort. The last sighting of them together was leaving Kalahari Resort on May 13th. After they checked out and left, Tim has never seen again.

She called several people the night of May 13th to let them know they were okay, but this was the last contact anyone had with Amy.

A little more background into the Pitzens' relationship: James and Amy's relationship was not an easy one. Long-distance at first, the relationship was, according to James as well as Amy's own mother, affected deeply by her mental illness. They were, however, already planning on getting married when she discovered she was pregnant. They married before Timmothy was born. The two were not getting along at the time she picked Tim up for school. According to her mother, Amy had brought up divorce and James had said he would not divorce her. He also told her she would not get custody of their son due to her mental health issues. Amy had struggled for most of her adult life with depression, beginning when she was in her twenties following a divorce from her first husband. She had attempted suicide in the beginning of her relationship with James, and spent time in a mental health facility afterward. Amy was taking medication for her depression at the time she pulled Tim from school, and James said he had no idea what was going to happen.

On May 14th, 2011, a hotel maid in Rockford, Illinois entered a room after several failed attempts to rouse the occupant. The maid could see a woman's body on the floor of the bathroom through the gap left by the door chain. Hotel staff called police, who initially thought the situation was nothing more than a hotel room suicide. She was later identified as Amy Fry-Pitzen, and she was alone the entire time she was in the hotel.

The details of Amy's death are gruesome and sadly, easily found online, so I will not share them here.

The tone of the initial investigation changed dramatically once police found what Amy had laid out on the bed. On top of the duvet were photos of Tim, along with identification for both he and Amy. Most chilling, though, was a note she had written. The note turned the investigation on its head. The content of the note has never been released to the public in its entirety, but the bits and pieces that have been read out are disturbing. In the letter, Amy claimed Tim was "with people who would love and care for him," and told the reader, "You'll never find him." She also sent two letters through the mail, one to her mother and another to a friend.

The last place Amy's cell phone was on and could be located was in an area surrounded by nothing but farmland.

Police searched Amy's vehicle for any evidence they could find. In the backseat, they found a small amount of Tim's blood. James believes the boy may have suffered a nosebleed, as he was prone to them in 2011.

When they spoke to the staff at the different hotels Amy and Tim had stayed in over the last few days of Amy's life, everyone said they didn't notice anything amiss. Timmothy played with a toy truck in the lobby of one hotel and looked like a normal, happy kid. His mom bought him new toys, and they looked like a normal, average mother and son having a good time together.

While Amy ignored all of James' phone calls, she spoke to her mother, Alana Anderson, reassuring her that everything was fine and she just needed to get away for a while. She made phone calls to other relatives as well. She spoke to Jim's brother the night before her body was found and told him everything was fine and not to worry, but at one point in the conversation she said, "Timmothy is mine."

Timmothy was last seen on surveillance leaving the Kalahari Resort with his mother. When she was next seen on camera at a store in Rockford, Illinois, she was alone. While she did not appear distraught, distracted, or in any way out of the ordinary on the tape, it's chilling to see her alone knowing that at that point she was the only person on Earth who knew where her son was. He was also not with her when she checked into that last hotel.

Police found plenty of evidence that Amy had been planning this trip for some time. She'd made visits to Sterling, Illinois months before Tim's disappearance, one of the last calls she made pinged off a tower in that area as well.

Police released surveillance footage they'd initially kept under wraps in 2012. In 2013, a woman who has remained anonymous turned in Amy's cell phone. She claims she found it on the side of a road and didn't realize it was important until two years after she found it. Neither of these things led to any new information.

During their entire trip to Illinois, Timmothy never tried to call Jim. This has always confused Jim, and made him wonder what Amy told their son while they were away.

THE HOAX: It's almost not worth mentioning, and I won't call the man who did it by name.

In 2019 in Newport, Kentucky, a grown man who was observed behaving erratically was taken in by police officers, and when they asked him who he was, he claimed to be Timmothy Pitzen. He looked young and all in all, since no one knows where Timmothy is, anything's possible. But by the next day, Louisville Police announced the whole incident was a hoax. It's sad and pitiful that someone would do this to Timmothy's poor family, who just want to find their boy.

THE SUSPECTS: The most obvious suspect is Amy Fry-Pitzen herself, even though no one really knows if a crime was committed at all beyond custodial interference. 

There are two theories about what she may have done with her only son. It's possible she caused harm to her son. While Wisconsin Dells itself is built up, the area surrounding it is rural, mostly large farms and thick, almost impassable marshes that would provide a perfect setting to dispose of a small boy. 

The other theory is that she did exactly what she said in her suicide note, and gave Tim to someone who is taking care of him and keeping him hidden.

Tim was only 5 years old when he went missing. It's entirely possible he doesn't remember who he used to be. It's also possible whoever has him has coached him to not use his real name and background. 

THE AFTERMATH: If there was ever a case of a child simply vanishing without a trace, Timmothy Pitzen's case is it. After he and his mother left the Kalahari Resort, he simply never appears again. No one remembers seeing him, he is not on any other surveillance footage, nothing. There are few clues as to where Amy may have taken him after they left the Kalahari and sadly, she is the only person who knew for sure where he was and might still be today.

THE CONCLUSION: It is easy to assume that Amy did something to harm her son. She would hardly be the first mother to murder her own child, and she may have been in a mental state that made her more likely to do so. But, we simply don't know. She could just as easily have given him to a family who wanted a child. He may not remember who he is, or may be afraid to come forward due to misinformation from his mother or any new family that we don't know about.

I hope he's out there, happy and taken care of just like Amy said. I hope he reads this, or some other news report, and comes forward one day. Or that the family he's with does and closes this circle. This one hurts, and it's frightening in so many ways, I want to see an end to this story.

If you have any information about the disappearance of TIMMOTHY JAMES PITZEN, please contact the Aurora Illinois Police Department at 630-256-5000.

And once again, if you are hurting and need help, or are thinking of harming yourself, please know that you are not alone. There are resources available. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 if you don't want to talk.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. I hope you enjoyed it. If you know of any mysterious cases you'd like to see me profile, comment on this post or send me a message on my Contact page and I’ll investigate.


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