(Reuters) – The person who claimed to be Illinois teen Timmothy Pitzen, who went missing eight years ago, is a grown man with a criminal record, according to the FBI and state records.
Brian Michael Rini, 23, told police in the Kentucky town of Newport that he had escaped kidnappers and was Timmothy, who would now be 14 years old, briefly raising hope the long-lost boy had been found, FBI spokesman Todd Lindgren said.
Timmothy was last seen after his mother pulled him out of school in Aurora, Illinois, a far-west suburb of Chicago, and then committed suicide.
Lindgren, of the agency’s Cincinnati bureau, said on Thursday that DNA tests conducted at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital showed that the person who claimed to be Timmothy was in fact Rini.
The story that Timmothy might have been found spread quickly online Wednesday, as users weighed in to say they prayed for the child’s safe return.
Police, however, were cautious throughout the investigation, refusing to discuss the case until DNA results came back.
“Law enforcement has not and will not forget Timmothy, and we hope to one day reunite him with his family,” the FBI said after the tests. “Unfortunately, that day will not be today.”
Speaking at a news conference posted online, Timmothy’s aunt, Karla Jacobs, urged compassion for Rini.
“We know you are out there somewhere Tim and we will never stop looking for you, praying for you and loving you,” she said. “We hope that everyone will join us in praying for the young man who claims to be Timmothy Pitzen.”
A public records search in Ohio showed Rini was released from the Belmont Correctional Institution on March 7, where he had been serving 14 months for burglary and vandalism.
Timmothy Pitzen disappeared in May 2011 at the age of 6, after his mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, pulled him out of school and took him on a trip to a zoo and a water park. She committed suicide soon afterward in a motel room, leaving a note that local media said made the boy’s whereabouts a mystery.
“Tim is somewhere safe with people who love him and will care for him,” she wrote in the note, according to reports by ABC7 Chicago. “You will never find him.”
Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York and Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Editing by James Dalgleish and Peter Cooney