One year later: Where is Timmothy Pitzen?
By Matt Hanley email@example.com May 12, 2012 3:04PM
Have you seen Timmothy?
Crime Stoppers is offering up to $5,000 for information that helps police find Timmothy Pitzen of Aurora, who has been missing for a year. Timmothy would now be 7-years-old. When he went missing, he was about 4-foot-2 and weighed around 70 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.
He was last seen wearing shorts, a brown T-shirt and white socks. His mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, was 5-foot-10, 180 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes. To see other pictures of Timmothy, go to www.beaconnewsonline.com.
Anyone with information is asked to call Aurora police at 630-256-5500, or local police. All calls placed to Crime Stoppers are anonymous. The phone number is 630-892-1000.
Updated: June 14, 2012 8:26AM
It’s the anhydrite that gives Christopher Palenik hope.
Anhydrite is a mineral often found in the limestone that is the bedrock foundation of most of Northern Illinois. It’s not a major component of limestone. It’s not even a minor component. It’s barely there. In fact, it’s so insignificant that anhydrite usually dissolves whenever limestone is exposed. In other words, it isn’t supposed to by lying around where a blue Ford Expedition can drive over it.
But somehow Amy Pitzen’s Expedition picked up a bit of anhydrite. So when Palenik, a research microscopist with Microtrace laboratories in Elgin, found this misplaced mineral it was like an alarm bell: this is solid clue. We can help find this boy.
One year after Aurora kindergartner Timmothy Pitzen went missing, Microtrace’s forensic work remains one of the few parts of the investigation that hasn’t hit a dead end. On May, 11, 2011, Amy Fry-Pitzen took her only son out of Aurora’s Greenman Elementary School. Without telling any family members, Timmothy and Amy went on a three-day, 500-mile road trip, stopping at zoos and water parks in Northern Illinois and Wisconsin. On the third day, Amy finally called family to report that she was fine. Timmothy was heard in the background.
Police found her body, her Expedition and a suicide note at a Rockford motel the next morning. Timmothy has not been found.
Within days of the disappearance, police had combed through cell phone records, surveillance footage, e-mail accounts and talked to witnesses. They were left with the thousands of miles of open land between the motel and the phone call near Sterling, Ill., that may or may not hold an answer.
So barring a surprise phone call, investigators are hoping the tiniest of mineral clues, like displaced anhydrite, will say: Yes, Amy’s car was here. This might be a good place to look.
Last videos released
This weekend marks one year of anguish for Timmothy Pitzen’s family. Without any new leads, keeping Timmothy’s story in the news has been a challenge. Aurora police have put out information and surveillance footage every few months. With each new release, online search engines send Timmothy’s story around the internet again. But the well is running dry.
On Friday, Aurora police released the last five clips of surveillance footage that show Amy and Timmothy together. Like the previous videos, the images are disturbing only in context. All of them show seemingly ordinary interactions between a mother and her son. As they check out of Key Lime Cove Resort on May 12, 2011, Timmothy rolls his toy truck along the carpet while Amy walks alongside him. In the other videos, Amy holds Timmothy’s hand, or he walks nearby.
The hope is that one of these new images triggers someone’s memory — or their compassion — and they make the call that investigators have been waiting for. In the meantime, police have pinned their hopes on the incredible data gathered at Microtrace.
In a lab on the northwest side of Elgin, the scientists at Microtrace do some of the most specialized work in the world. Skip Palenik founded the company in 1992; his brother Mark Palenik and his son, Chris Palenik all work there now. The company has investigated everything from historical mysteries (did that photo album belong to Adolph Hitler?) to customer complaints (did that bag of chips really come with a rat?).
Other times, police departments will turn to Microtrace for the last link in a crime, such as comparing a fiber on a suspect with a fiber on a victim. Using some of the most high powered microscopes in the world, they analyze size, shape, color and nearly every other identifiable feature. In a Maryland case, they helped find a serial rapist by identifying dust on a sports jersey as drywall materials.
“At the end of the day, people come to us because we’re problem solvers,” said Chris Palenik.
The Aurora police came with a different problem. They wanted the lab to process the dust, plants and other materials found under, inside and around Amy Pitzen’s SUV. The hope was that some unique element — or a unique combination of elements — would lead them to a specific spot. To publicize the case, Aurora police released the lab’s findings six months after Timmothy went missing. The description was so vivid, police hoped it would remind a property owner of a forgotten corner of his lot.
Based on sediments and plant material, the lab believes Amy’s vehicle was stopped for an unknown period of time on a wide gravel shoulder or gravel road either next to or very near an asphalt secondary road that had been treated with glass road-marking beads.
Near the gravel road, the Expedition backed into a grassy meadow or field to a spot that is nearly treeless. There are birch and oak trees in the general area but not directly over the spot where the SUV stopped. Both Queen Anne’s Lace and black mustard plants grow in a row nearby.
There is no corn growing close to where the SUV stopped and the location had probably not been used for agriculture recently. Evidence strongly suggests grasses have been the only major plants growing in the immediate area. But the grass was not cut, which makes it unlikely it was a residential lawn or a park. There is a strong likelihood that there is a pond, small stream, or creek in the area.
Scientists further believe the meadow is most likely in northwestern Illinois with Lee and Whiteside counties as the most likely locations. However, Carroll, Ogle, Stephenson, and Winnebago counties cannot be ruled out.
Police are urging people who have property that matches this description to check their land. They could look for Timmothy’s Spider Man backpack, several toys and a tube of toothpaste Amy bought for Timmothy before he disappeared. Amy’s cell phone and I-Pass device are also missing. Pictures of the items are available at beaconnewsonline.com or under the “Timmothy Pitzen” tab on the Aurora Police Department’s homepage.
While investigators continue to pursue any information that may come in, they have no leads about whether Timmothy is still alive. Aurora Police still receive periodic calls from people across the nation who think they spotted Timmothy. After following up on every report, no further information has developed. Police continue to occasionally send in soil samples from Northern Illinois, hoping for a match.
While the case remains difficult, Aurora police spokesman Dan Ferrelli said it is not hopeless.
“No, we don’t believe it’s hopeless at all,” he said. “All the police officers investigating this believe nothing is impossible.”