Monday 19 August 2019

Man who claimed to be boy who disappeared eight years ago was lying - say FBI

Brian Rini (Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office via AP)
Brian Rini (Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

Dan Sewell and Don Babwin

A man who authorities say claimed to be a boy who disappeared eight years ago has twice made similar claims in which he falsely portrayed himself as a juvenile sex trafficking victim, according to the FBI.

Brian Rini, from Medina, Ohio, was detained in Cincinnati on Thursday. The FBI has identified him as the person who claimed to be Timmothy Pitzen, who disappeared in Illinois in 2011 at the age of six.

The FBI declared the man's story a hoax based on DNA testing, a day after he identified himself to authorities as Timmothy.

Enough evidence exists to charge Rini with lying to federal authorities, the FBI's affidavit filed in federal court said.

Timmothy Pitzen (Aurora Police Department/AP)
Timmothy Pitzen (Aurora Police Department/AP)

He was found on Wednesday in Newport, Kentucky, "wandering the street and looking confused and in need of assistance", according to the six-page document by FBI agent Mary Braun.

After identifying himself as Timmothy, Rini complained of abdominal pain and was taken to Cincinnati Children's Hospital, the affidavit said.

Rini refused to be fingerprinted on Wednesday and Thursday but agreed to a DNA test which on Thursday identified him, according to Ms Braun.

Even after he was advised of his rights and warned against making false statements, he continued to insist he was Timmothy and that he had escaped from a hotel where he had been forced to have sex with men against his will, the affidavit said.

The back yard of the house where Timmothy Pitzen used to live in Aurora, Illinois (Carrie Antlfinger/AP)
The back yard of the house where Timmothy Pitzen used to live in Aurora, Illinois (Carrie Antlfinger/AP)

Rini finally acknowledged his identity after being confronted with the DNA results, said he had watched a story about Timmothy on TV, and had wanted to get away from his family, according to Ms Braun.

An FBI investigation found that Rini had twice portrayed himself as a juvenile sex trafficking victim, and in each case was later identified after being fingerprinted, the affidavit said.

Rini was released from prison on probation less than a month ago after serving more than a year for burglary and vandalism.

Timmothy's family had been cautiously hopeful over Wednesday's news, as were neighbours and others who had long wondered whether he is dead or alive.

"Law enforcement has not and will not forget Timmothy, and we hope to one day reunite him with his family. Unfortunately, that day will not be today," FBI spokesman Timothy Beam said.

Timmothy vanished after his mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, pulled him out of nursery early one day, took him on a two-day road trip to a zoo and a water park, and then killed herself at a hotel.

She left a note saying that her son was safe with people who would love and care for him, and added: "You will never find him.

In his home town of Aurora, Illinois, Police Sergeant Bill Rowley said that over the years his department has received thousands of tips about Timmothy, including false sightings.

"We're always worried about copycats, especially something that has a big national attention like this," Sgt Rowley said.

Timmothy's family said they were heartbroken by the latest twist.

"It's devastating. It's like reliving that day all over again, and Timmothy's father is devastated once again," said his aunt Kara Jacobs.

The boy's grandmother Alana Anderson said: "It's been awful. We've been on tenterhooks, hopeful and frightened. It's just been exhausting.

"I feel so sorry for the young man who's obviously had a horrible time and felt the need to say he was somebody else."

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