CHICAGO — In the last 5 years, only 8% of kids missing between five and 10 years actually surface again.
While the statistics are bleak, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said Thursday’s heartbreaking disappointment regarding Timmothy Pitzen is no reason to give up hope.
For eight years, the NCMEC has been working with the Pitzen family to find the child. For roughly 24 hours, the best leads to date made everyone on the outside think this could be the moment they were waiting for until DNA test results revealed otherwise.
The person who claimed he was Pitzen was identified as 23-year-old Brian Michael Rini of Medina, Ohio. According to authorities, Rini had a history of making false reports.
“What people don’t realize is that this type of scenario happens over and over and over again for many families across the nation,” Angelina Hartmann, NCMEC, said. “Tips come in, police follow them, family gets alerted: Is this the tip that is going to bring my child home?”
When the tips don’t pay off, the national center said there are lessons to be learned, starting with awareness. Timmothy Pitzen is suddenly a household name again — a critical piece in a missing person’s case. Also, his picture, new and old, have been splashed on news outlets everywhere. The photos are the organization’s No. 1 tool for bringing missing kids home again.
“This story was on every news channel, outlet, for the last 24 hours across the country. What that does is not only bring attention to Timmothy’s case, but people start to wonder who is missing in my community?” Hartmann said.
On any given day the organization is working between 2,000 and 3,000 cases. To the woman who saw a boy who didn’t appear to belong in her neighborhood, she called police. The experts say she did the right thing.
“This woman saw something and she made that call and that’s what we want people to do: Open their eyes in their communities and know that it’s possible that you could be that person to make that call and bring a child home,” Hartmann said.
The NCMEC said in the aftermath of these major disappointments during an open investigation, the family needs privacy. The emotion can be so raw after the letdown and can take a family right back to the day their child first went missing.
Officials said anyone with information about the Pitzen case is asked to call the Aurora Police Department at 630-256-5000 or the NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).