Timmothy Pitzen disappeared in Illinois eight years ago when he was 6 years old. In an interview with NBC News, his father said he believed the latest call from authorities alerting him to a possible break in his son’s case was the fourth time that had happened since 2011.
A detective hadn’t told him much — just that authorities were checking out a lead.
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
"'I’ll get back with you as soon as possible with anything else,'" he recalls the detective saying. "I'm like, 'Okay.'"
James Pitzen’s hopes were high, at least initially. Even though his son vanished under the grimmest of circumstances — Timmothy’s mother is believed to have committed suicide after leaving a note saying Timmothy was safe but would never be found — he believes his son is still alive.
Maybe Timmothy is in the middle of nowhere, James Pitzen said. Maybe he has no cell phone, television or computer. Maybe he’s getting homeschooled.
“He could be…four counties over [on] 100 acres in the middle of nowhere,” he said.
After the detective's call, James Pitzen prepared himself for the stress the next few days would undoubtedly bring. He prepared himself for the phone calls, for the reporters who would show up at his house.
“I’ve dealt with this going on eight years,” he said. It's “pretty much second nature.
“I’ve learned to calm down and think about it before I answer a question or just let it go and come back to it later,” he added.
Then came the bad news and the reopening of a nearly decade old wound.
He said a group of close friends help him keep it together. And even though the events of last week were the most painful kind of publicity, he’s still hopeful it'll generate new leads.
"The exposure will help get his face back out there, get the age impression picture back out there, get a description of what he may look like out,” James Pitzen said, adding that “eventually, he’ll come up somewhere.”
“I just want my son home,” he said.
Tim Stelloh is a reporter for NBC News, based in California.