Saying goodbye is something we do almost everyday, but we don’t think of it in a permanent sense. When we go to school, work, or leave the house for any amount of time, we usually say goodbye to someone, with the assumption that we will see them again later in the day.
These were the thoughts of James Pitzen when he dropped his 6-year-old son Timmothy off at Greenman Elementary School in Aurora, IL in May, 2011. James told his son he loved him and Timmy replied, “I love you too, Dad”. There was nothing that indicated to James that this was the last time he would see his son.
Soon after Timmothy had been dropped off, his mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, arrived at the school, picked up Timmy and they set off on a trip together where they visited attractions such as the zoo and waterparks. No one knew they were taking this trip; it is unclear whether Amy had even planned it ahead of time. What Amy did know, however, was that this would be the last trip she would take with her son.
James has never gotten any answers regarding what happened to Timmy. For 7 years, he has had questions of who, where, why and how going through his mind undoubtedly every minute of every day. Since that day in May, James’s life has never been the same.
Amy Fry-Pitzen (Timmothy’s mother) and James met at a party, either in 2002 or 2003. They dated for a year long-distance and at some point during this time, Amy told James about her struggles with depression. In 2003, Amy attempted suicide; she took some pills, sat on the edge of a cliff, passed out and fell off. James received a phone call from a hospital in Iowa saying what had happened and that Amy was in their care.
James was sure that with his support and a healthy relationship, Amy’s depression would get better (her depression really began after her divorce from her first husband). Amy and James got married (I believe in 2004); James was Amy’s fourth husband. Amy gave birth to Timmothy on October 18th 2004. Amy and James’ world revolved around Timmy.
Things were okay in their relationship for a while after Timmy was born, however, it didn’t stay that way for long. They argued about money and the fact Amy would go on luxurious vacations with her friends to places such as the Bahamas; she wanted to do her own thing. Amy began talking about divorce often before her death, but James was quite determined to try and make things work.
Something that I think is important to note here is that if Amy and James were to get divorced, James would likely get full custody of Timmy, given that he had a steady job and Amy’s history of serious mental illness.
Timeline of May 11th – May 14th
Less than 20 minutes after Timmy was dropped off by his father, his mother, Amy, called the school saying there had been a family emergency and she was coming to pick Timmy up. At around 8:15am, she arrived at the school and left with Timmy in her blue 2004 Ford Expedition SUV.
At 10:00am, Amy dropped her car off at an auto-repair shop. A shop employee gave Amy and Timmy a ride to the Brookfield Zoo, where they spent the day while her car was being repaired. At 3:00pm, Amy and Timmy arrived back at the shop and picked up the car.
Amy then drove to KeyLime Cove Resort in Gurnee, IL, where she and Timmy spent the night. Meanwhile, James went to pick Timmy up from school. He was taken aback when he found out that his wife had picked Timmy up shortly after he had dropped him off. He had no knowledge of any trips or family emergencies. James repeatedly attempted to call Amy, each time reaching her voicemail.
Amy and Timmy left KeyLime Cove that morning. Still having no idea of their whereabouts, James reported his wife and son missing.
Amy and Timmy then drove around 160 miles northwest to Wisconsin Dells, checking into the Kalahari Resort, where security footage showed them checking in.
Later that day, having not packed anything for Timmy, Amy went out and bought toys and clothes for him as well as gas.
At 10:00am the next morning, security footage shows Amy and Timmy leaving the Kalahari Resort together. This is the last security footage recorded of Timmothy. They then drove around 120 miles south to Rockford, IL.
At around 1:30pm, Amy called her mother, amongst others. She told her she and Timmy were fine and that they would come home in a couple of days. Strangely, Amy also called her brother-in-law and said:
“Timmothy is fine. Timmothy belongs to me. Timmothy and I will be fine. Timmothy is safe”.
James, bewildered by the whole situation, could not figure out why Amy would call his brother but not call him back. His brother reported to him that he could hear Timmy in the background of the phone call, sounding normal, saying he was hungry. I also found some sources stating that Timmy spoke to a relative on the phone and did not seem to be in any distress. Either way, around 1:30pm that afternoon is the last anyone ever heard from Timmothy.
This is where things get fuzzy. The next sighting was not until 7:25pm, in Winnebago, IL. Amy was seen at a Family Dollar store buying stationery. At 8:00pm, security footage showed Amy entering a Sullivan’s Grocery store, buying food and leaving around 6 minutes later. Amy was alone in both stores.
Around 11:15pm, Amy checked into the Rockford Inn in Rockford, IL.
A housekeeper enters Amy’s room at the Rockford Inn at 12:30pm, where they find Amy’s lifeless body. She had slit her throat and wrists and taken a lethal overdose of antihistamines.
Timmy is nowhere to be seen. There is no sign that he was ever with Amy; the clothes and toys she bought for him, as well as his backpack, are gone. Also missing are the clothes Amy wore when she left the Kalahari Resort the previous day and her cell phone.
Amy’s Final Words
On the bed were photos of Timmothy and a note. Amy also wrote two more letters, one to her mother and one to a friend.
In the note found in the room, Amy expressed that Timmothy was safe, but that he would “never be found”.
In the note to her mother, Amy wrote: “I have taken Timmothy somewhere safe, and he loves you. Please know that there is nothing you could have said or done that would have changed my mind.”
Amy had an I-PASS on her car (my understanding is a device showing which toll booths your car has passed through and a bill is sent at the end of a given time period), which showed that earlier in the year, Amy had made two trips (one in February and one in March) to the hotel where she died and some of the other more rural locations she visited on the final trip with Timmy. There were no obvious reasons as to why she went to these places in particular. Also, the I-PASS was never found; I’m assuming this information on places she had previously visited came from bills she had received. This information made investigators believe that Amy’s final trip was, in fact, pre-planned for several months at least.
Something I think is pretty amazing is the analysis of the vegetation found on Amy’s car. The car was dirty with mud and grass, and forensic tests were able to determine that the car had likely been parked on a gravelly area for a time. The plants they figured would have been in the area were Queen Anne's lace and black mustard plants and there would have been few trees. It was possible there was a small body of water such as a pond nearby. It was likely a meadow which had not been interfered with by humans (no crop-growing or mowing had taken place). Investigators believed it was likely in Lee County or Whiteside County in northwestern Illinois, however after extensive searching of the area, no signs of Timmy were found.
There was some blood found on the backseat of the car which was matched to Timmy. However, Timmy was known to suffer nosebleeds and this was likely to come from one he had had not long before the trip; the blood was also dried and too old to have come from a recent wound or cut. The blade Amy had used to kill herself was not found to have any of Timmy’s blood on it either.
The cell phone
Sometime in autumn of 2013, Amy’s cell phone was found on the side of Route 78. This finding brought new hope for the case, but after extensively searching the area where the phone was found as well as any clues on the phone itself, it unfortunately did not lead investigators to any answers regarding Timmy’s whereabouts.
So what does it all mean?
The greatest pieces of evidence in this case were, for obvious reasons, the notes Amy left. They create a lot of debate in this case, surrounding the most important question: is Timmothy actually alive?
There is so much information to consider that I thought the best way to approach the question was by listing points that support Timmy being alive and points that do not.
Amy’s family and husband say she would never hurt Timmy.
There is no physical evidence that any harm came to Timmy.
Amy bought toys and clothes for Timmy on the road, why would she do this if she was planning to kill him?
Amy says Timmy is ‘safe’…however, it’s hard to say how much weight Amy’s word really has here or what she actually meant by this. Given Amy’s state of mind, she could mean that Timmy is ‘safe’ from her husband, but he is actually dead. It could be interpreted in many different ways.
I personally believe that Timmy is dead; I go over my reasoning in more depth below. I think the fact that Amy’s clothing she was wearing on the morning of the 13th was missing from the hotel room where she was found indicates that sometime between 10am and 7:25pm (the times when she was seen on security footage wearing different clothing) that day, Amy killed Timmy, perhaps got his blood on her clothes and disposed of them.
Amy was suffering with severe mental illness. Given how badly she was struggling, there is a strong possibility that perhaps she was delusional and thought that by ending Timmy’s life she was, in fact, helping him or doing what she thought was the right thing. Parents can kill their kids, regardless of how much Amy’s family said she loved Timmy (we, especially true crime fans, know this all too well).
Amy and James were having problems in their marriage and as mentioned previously, Amy didn’t like to be told what to do, which may be the reason for the trip she and Timmy took before her death. Was it possible that Amy resented her husband so much that she killed their son to spite him? It’s a horrible thing to comprehend, but perhaps Amy, knowing she was going to go through with killing herself, was in the mind-set of, “if I can’t have Timmothy, no one can”.
I don’t know everything that was going on in the marriage and I can only gather information from what I’ve listened to/read. My personal beliefs are that in Amy’s depressed state, she was selfish and angry with her husband, whom she felt deep down was more capable of looking after their son than she was. She wanted prove her family and others wrong; she could take care of her son, by keeping him somewhere ‘safe’, at the same time as punishing her husband, perhaps for things they fought over that we don’t know about.
She did succeed in inflicting the worst kind of punishment not only her husband, but on her other family members who loved Timmy, by writing that “Timmy will never be found”. It gives a glimmer of hope that he is still alive, but they will never see him again. For Timmy’s dad, the not knowing is almost worse than knowing he is dead (I think). If he knew Timmy was dead, he wouldn’t have the constant wondering every day about where Timmy is and if he will ever see him again. If he knew Timmy had died, he could at least have some kind of closure and be able to move on with his life to some degree.
I know Amy was suffering and not in her right mind, but it makes me really sad that she used Timmy to hurt her husband and the rest of her family. If Timmy is alive - which I really doubt he is - I feel he would have gotten in touch with his dad by now.
There are some theories that Amy gave Timmy to a devoutly religious family/community that do not use technology, for example, an Amish community, of which there are several which live in the remote areas Amy would have passed through on her trips to the remote areas she visited. I just find it really hard to believe that someone would agree to just take her child, no questions asked and keep it a secret from the rest of the world. Also the fact that Amy was able to completely cover up any signs that she communicated with the person(s) she was planning to hand him off to is hard to comprehend.
This case is so frustrating because there is just so much speculation and so few things we actually know for sure. Sorry if this post seems a little long and rambling, I realise it’s kind of a brain dump but I hope that I was able to shed some light on this case if you hadn’t heard of it before/wanted to find out more. If you have any more theories/things you know about the case that I haven’t mentioned here, PLEASE let me know!
And for Timmy’s family, I’m sorry, I can’t even imagine the pain you go through everyday. I hope one day you get the answers you deserve.