AS their 11-year search for answers continues with no immediate end in sight, family members of Timmothy Pitzen are left with only questions and a handful of clues as to where the missing boy might be now.
After a fun-filled three days spent visiting zoos and waterparks across state lines, Amy was found dead in a motel room in Rockford having slashed her wrists with a razor blade and taken an overdose of antihistamines.
But little Timmothy was nowhere to be found.
In her final moments of life, Amy had written a lengthy suicide note to explain to her family back home why she decided to take her own life, assuring them nothing they could've done would've been enough to change her mind.
The 42-year-old also offered a cryptic message as to Timmothy's whereabouts. She claimed to have given him away to somebody who loved him and would care for him, but chillingly warned that he'd "never be found."
True to her words, no trace of Timmothy has been yielded in the more than a decade since.
While there is insufficient evidence to determine whether the boy is alive or dead, Timmothy's aunt Jen West told The US Sun that she's certain he's out there somewhere still and will one day return home.
"Amy followed through on her promise [she made in her suicide note], which unfortunately hasn't changed yet," Jen said.
"But I 100,000% think that Tim is out there somewhere. I don't think she did anything to physically harm him.
"I believe it was some sort of illegal adoption arrangement ... I think she planned the whole thing out very well and had been planning it for a very long time."
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THE VANISHING ACT
On May 11, 2011, Amy arrived at Greenman Elementary School at 8.15am, telling school administrators she needed to take Timmothy out of his kindergarten class because of a family emergency.
Surveillance footage from inside the school shows Amy leading Timmothy out of the front doors by the hand.
Only 45 minutes earlier, Timmothy's dad Jim Pitzen had dropped the boy off at the front gates, telling his son he loved him as he jumped out of his car wearing his favorite Spider-Man backpack.
Jim has not seen his son since.
He arrived back at the school a few hours later to pick Timmothy up and was confused when he was told that Amy had already collected him earlier that morning, citing an unspecified emergency.
To Jim's knowledge, no such emergency had occurred. He frantically called and texted Amy's phone but his messages went unanswered.
By this time, Amy and Timmothy were already on their way to Brookfield Zoo, which is located around 30 miles east of Aurora.
Later that same day, the mother and son headed northbound for an hour to Key Lime Resort, a hotel and water park in Gurnee.
The following morning, on May 12, Amy took Timmothy to the Wisconsin Dells, where she checked into the Kalahari Resort, stopping to buy clothes, toys, gas, and a small arts and crafts kit along the way.
Timmothy was reported missing by his father back in Aurora, having still not heard from Amy.
She finally broke her silence on May 13 but it wasn't Jim that she called. Instead, she called his brother Chuck, whom she told Timmothy was fine, adding: "Tim is my son, I can do what I want."
Amy also called her mother, telling her "everything's fine" and that she just needed to spend some time alone with her son.
She promised to return home in a day or two, but Amy failed to uphold her word.
LAST KNOWN MOVEMENTS
On that same day, surveillance video captured the known images of Timmothy and his mother together as they checked out of the Kalahari Resort.
The young boy is seen holding Amy's hand as they wait in line, still wearing the same Spider-Man backpack he'd worn to school two days before.
Precisely where the pair headed next is a question that continues to puzzle investigators 11-years later.
Pings from Amy's cellphone reveal that she drove for around 170 miles along the Rock River toward Sterling, a small rural town about 80 miles west of Aurora, and then turned her cell phone off for the last time.
It remains a mystery why Amy headed towards Sterling, with the family having no known connections to the area.
Data from her I-pass would later reveal that she made two prior trips to Sterling in February and March. These trips were never mentioned to Jim or any other family member and nobody could offer an explanation as to why she would've gone there.
Police put forward two theories that she may have either been scouting a discreet location to hand Timmothy over to someone or even looking for a spot to bury a body. No evidence has yet surfaced to support either scenario.
For the next several hours Amy's whereabouts are completely unknown. But at 8 pm she re-surfaced for the final time when she was seen on surveillance camera entering a supermarket in Winnebago, near Rockford.
Crucially, Amy was alone in the footage with Timmothy appearing to be nowhere in sight.
The following day she was found dead in the Rockford Inn motel after taking her own life - and with it the secret of Timmothy's fate.
Between the surveillance images and Amy's cellphone data, investigators were left with very little else to work with in their hunt for Timmothy.
Police were left with thousands of miles of open land between the motel where Amy took her life and the furthest location she was known to be.
They would admit that they didn’t have any clues which could help pinpoint them in a direction to narrow their search. Within a month the trail went cold.
One potentially crucial piece of evidence was collected from beneath Amy's blue Ford Expedition SUV: pieces of long weeds, tall grass, and dirt that were lodged beneath the rear bumper.
From the sediments and plant material, forensic investigators were able to determine that Amy had stopped for an unknown period of time on a wide gravel shoulder or a gravel road which was located either next to, or close to, an asphalt secondary road that had been treated with glass-road marking beats.
They were also able to ascertain that Amy's car then backed onto a grass meadow or field that had very few surrounding trees.
The investigators found that there were birch and oak trees in the general area but not close to the location where Amy's car had stopped.
Queen Anne's Lace and black mustard plants were also believed to be growing nearby, and scientists say it's likely there was a pond, stream, or small creek in the area.
They concluded the car likely stopped somewhere in northwest Illinois but a specific location has never been identified.
"The motel she was found at was along Interstate 80 which connects across the whole of the United States," Jen said.
"It was also near a huge junction which leads into multiple directions, so there's no telling where she had come from or where she had been.
"It’s not like in Wyoming where you're like well, 'we can go on that road north or we can go on that road' - this is a huge freeway.
"The last footage they have of her is from the night before [in the supermarket] at like 8pm.
"So we know she had like a good 18-ish hour headstart in literally any direction."
Jen added: "Everybody asks me, 'well, why don't we go out and look for him?'
"But at this point, where would we even start?"
TIMMOTHY'S FAMILY: 'HE'S ALIVE'
While questions remain abundant, Jen said it's her and her family's belief that Timmothy is still alive and living somewhere under a new identity, likely completely oblivious to the life he once led in Aurora.
Much of the belief stems from the fact that Amy was a doting mother and Timmothy her pride and joy.
"He was her whole world," Jen told The US Sun. "I can't imagine her ever doing anything like that. Of course, over the last 11 years, I've thought maybe she could have, but I always go back to thinking he's alive.
"I think she gave him to someone who would love him and raise him so he could become an adult, without the stigma of having divorced parents or a mom who killed herself," Jen added.
"She had some mental struggles ... but deep down in my heart, I don't think she would've done anything to hurt him.
"Obviously uprooting his whole life and giving him away to somebody would also hurt him but I'm sure she didn't think of it that way."
Also buoying the family's optimism is the fact that Timmothy's Spider-Man backpack has never been found. Additionally, Amy bought new clothes for the boy during their impromptu road trip that have also never been recovered.
Jen and her family maintain their belief that Amy gave Timmothy away to another family as part of an illegal adoption scheme.
The secrets of that believed arrangement may have been revealed in any one of the number of Yahoo email accounts that Amy had to her name.
"She had like 11 different accounts linked to her name," Jen said. "But she wiped all her messages and with Yahoo, once you delete it it's gone forever.
"So I think she'd been planning [the illegal adoption] for a long time, but obviously just none of us knew.
"And honestly, I don't even know why she would do such a thing in the first place."
'GIVE US A SIGN'
Speaking on the 11th anniversary of Timmothy's disappearance, Jen said the trauma of losing her nephew never leaves her but the grief is particularly amplified around this time of year.
The grief often comes to her in waves, she said, and can manifest in a number of different forms.
For several years after Timmothy's vanishing, the grief materialized in the form of anger, specifically toward Amy for the lives she shattered.
But now, Jen tends to feel sadness more than anything.
"[Amy] You got your point across …we’re missing his whole life and he’s missing ours," she said, speaking through tears.
"He’s still very much a part of our lives. Even though he’s not physically with us I can’t send him a birthday gift or ask him how art class was, but my kids know about him and he’s very much a part of us still."
For Jen, steadfast in her beliefs that Timmothy is still alive, she insists that "any resolution is fine", just knowing her nephew is okay and being cared for is enough for her now.
"If he wants to be 100% in our family, I am with that if he just wants to let us know he's okay, then I'm okay with that as well," she insisted, "because we don't know who's raising him and what they've told him.
"I don't know if that's my family standing. I don't know how my brother feels. I'm sure my brother would be like, 'come here now I need you, you need me.'
"But any communication is fine with me.
"Any level at all."