The man who falsely claimed to be Timmothy Pitzen, a boy who disappeared in 2011, has a history of getting into trouble and using other people’s identities, his brother said.
Brian Michael Rini, 23, of Medina, Ohio, said Wednesday he was the missing boy from Aurora, Illinois, and described how he fled from kidnappers and ran across a bridge into Kentucky, authorities said.
Rini is facing federal charges of making false statements to federal agents, the FBI said.
He appeared Friday in federal court, where prosecutors asked that he be held without bond, according to Ben Glassman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio. He faces up to eight years in prison.
The FBI said the suspect had twice before made similar claims in which he falsely portrayed himself as a juvenile sex trafficking victim.
Brian Rini of Medina, Ohio, was jailed in Cincinnati on Thursday, a day after he identified himself to authorities as Timmothy Pitzen, who disappeared in 2011 at age 6. The FBI declared Rini’s story a hoax based on DNA testing.
The charge against Rini should send a message about the damage that making such false claims can do, said Benjamin Glassman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio.
“It’s not OK to do it because of the harm that it causes, the pain, for the family of that missing child,” Glassman said.
Glassman said authorities were skeptical early on of Rini’s claim because he refused to be fingerprinted.
Rini was released from an Ohio prison last month after serving time for burglary and vandalism, court records show.
Records from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction indicate he was charged with burglary and vandalism — both felonies. The crimes occurred in Medina County in January 2018, and he was sentenced to one year and six months in prison.
He was released March 7 and was supposed to start parole supervision that day for three years.
His brother said Rini was in jail a lot as a child, “just getting into random little bouts of trouble, fights at home.”
Jonathon Rini said his brother was “placed on juvenile probation and then he just continuously violated his probation.”
Brian Rini’s deception dashed relatives’ hopes for an end to their long search for Timmothy, who would be 14.
“It’s like reliving that day all over again,” said Kara Jacobs, Timmothy’s aunt. “Timmothy’s father is devastated once again.”
Missing since 2011
Nearly eight years ago, Timmothy and his mother went on a road trip that included stops at a zoo and a water park. Their adventure started after Amy Fry-Pitzen checked her son out of an Illinois elementary school on May 11, 2011.
Three days later, the mother’s body was found in a hotel room in Rockford, Illinois. She killed herself, leaving behind a note that said her son was with people who love him.
“You’ll never find him,” the note said.
A ‘fidgety’ man and sympathetic neighbors
Sharon Hall told CNN she noticed a “fidgety” person Wednesday in her Newport neighborhood, not far from the Ohio-Kentucky border. A neighbor’s daughter called police after the man told them he had run for two hours and that his stomach hurt.
When authorities arrived, he told them his name was Timmothy Pitzen and said he fled from two men who kept him captive for seven years, most recently at a nearby Red Roof Inn, according to a police report.
People who talked to Rini before police arrived said he was anxious and pleaded for help.
“He walked up to my car and he went, ‘Can you help me?’ ” a 911 caller told dispatchers, according to CNN affiliate WCPO in Cincinnati. “‘I just want to get home. Please help me.’ I asked him what’s going on, and he tells me he’s been kidnapped and he’s been traded through all these people and he just wanted to go home.”
Police checked Red Roof Inns in the Cincinnati and northern Kentucky areas but did not find any clues.
Brother says Rini has a troubled history
Speaking by phone Friday with CNN’s “New Day,” Jonathon Rini said his brother was arrested a few years ago after breaking into a model home and throwing a party.
He said his brother had used his name when stopped for a traffic violation in 2017. Jonathon Rini said he later received a letter notifying him his license had been suspended, according to a police report from Norton, Ohio.
Jonathon Rini said his brother had been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome and bipolar disorder. “Still, he should have the rational thinking to not do something like this,” he said.
He said he hasn’t spoken to his brother in three or four years and was shocked when he heard what happened. “I do not know why he would do anything like this.”
He said he’s not sure why his brother would single out Timmothy’s case and pretend to be the missing boy. “He’s a terrible person,’ Jonathon Rini said.
Family searched desperately for years
For years, Timmothy’s family has searched for him.
“I have one image. It’s the day I dropped him off at school and he’s off — running off to class — and that’s pretty much the last image I have in my mind of him,” Timmothy’s father, Jim Pitzen, told CNN in 2015.
The day before his mother killed herself, she made several calls from an unknown location to family members, including her mother.
She assured them Timmothy was safe.
Over the years, family members have said she had a history of depression, and her marriage was failing. Her biggest fear was that a judge would take her son away because of her mental health issues, according to relatives.