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Hope, Then Devastation: Details Emerge on Missing Boy Hoax

Investigators: Brian Rini says he learned about Timmothy Pitzen, who vanished in 2011, from TV
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 5, 2019 1:30 PM CDT
This undated photo shows Brian Rini.   (Hamilton County Sheriff's Office via AP)

(Newser) – An "astounding" story turned into a crushing blow for the family of a missing Illinois boy, and now there are a slew of questions surrounding the man who prosecutors say impersonated him. A young man turned up in the streets of Newport, Ky., on Wednesday, claiming to be Timmothy Pitzen, who vanished at the age of 6 in 2011; Timmothy would now be 14. DNA tests have since revealed the mysterious wanderer found in Kentucky isn't Timmothy after all, but a 23-year-old Ohio man with a rap sheet and history of mental illness named Brian Michael Rini. Rini was charged Friday with making a false statement or representation to a US agency or department, per a criminal complaint cited by NBC Chicago. How he was busted: After he was "rescued" Wednesday, prosecutors say, Rini complained his stomach hurt and was taken to a local hospital.

The AP notes that's when his story started to seem fishy to investigators when he wouldn't let them fingerprint him. They were able to get a cheek swab, and it was soon discovered his DNA didn't match with that of Timmothy's parents. It did, however, tie him to his own DNA, as the FBI already had samples, the complaint notes. When he was told of the DNA results, prosecutors say, Rini finally came clean and said he'd learned about Pitzen while watching a TV show on the missing boy. He told officials he "wanted to get away from his own family." Rini, who was just released from prison last month after serving a little over a year for burglary and vandalism, had pretended to be a sex trafficking victim at least two times in the past, per prosecutors. Rini could see eight years behind bars if convicted in this most recent case. (Read more missing child stories.)

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