CHICAGO (CBS) — Tens of thousands of kids go missing every year in the U.S., and while many return home safe, statistics show the chances a child is found alive sharply diminish as time passes.
Among the nearly 2,000 names on the list of long-term missing kids — a category the National Center For Missing And Exploited Children (NCMEC) defines as cold case missing juveniles cases — only 151 children have been located after being missing for a decade or longer.
Timmothy Pitzen’s name remains on that list.
About 3,150 kids missing for six months or longer were found safe between 2014 and 2017, according to the organization.
Pitzen, of Aurora, went missing at age six nearly eight years ago under tragic circumstances that captivated the nation.
His case resurfaced Wednesday when a report that came out of Kentucky said a 14-year-old who identified himself as Timmothy Pitzen had fled across a bridge near Cincinnati over the Ohio River to escape two kidnappers who had held him hostage for seven years.
The results of a DNA test released about 24 hours later, on Thursday afternoon, disproved the report, however.
Pitzen was picked up from Greenman Elementary School in Aurora on May 11, 2011, by his mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, who took him on a three-day trip to a zoo and water parks before she committed suicide in a Rockford motel room.
An ominous message she left behind saying Timmothy was safe but would never be found has baffled the boy’s family and law enforcement agencies, who have had few clues about the child’s whereabouts.
Of all the abductions reported to NCMEC between 2014 and 2015, 98 percent involved kids who ran away or were taken by a family member, and it took an average of about a year before kids who were taken by a family member were found, according to NCMEC.
Although Pitzen was last seen alive in his mother’s care, the disappearance doesn’t appear to fall into either of those categories, and his case remains cold.
These abducted children made headlines for their miraculous safe returns:
Dugard survived 18 years in captivity after she was kidnapped at the age of 11 in 1991 while walking home from a school bus stop in Northern California. She was reunited with her family in 2009. Her kidnappers, Phillip Garrido and his wife Nancy Garrido, were sentenced to prison.
Smart was snatched from the bedroom of her family’s Salt Lake City home in 2002. She was held captive as a sex slave for nine months before she was rescued after someone saw her walking with her kidnapper. Smart said street preacherhis wife, Wanda Barzee. Today, Smart is an ABC News consultant.
Closs, 13, was kidnapped from her family’s Wisconsin home after her captor murdered her parents on Oct. 15, 2018. Jayme escaped from the alleged kidnapper’s home in rural Gordon, Wisconsin and came across a woman walking her dog, who notified authorities. Police later tracked down 21-year-old Jake Thomas Patterson, based on Jayme’s description of her kidnapper’s car.
Steven Stayner, 7, was kidnapped in 1972 on his walk home from school in Merced, California by Kenneth Parnell, who was convicted in the kidnapping in 1980. Parnell changed Stayner’s name and kept him for seven years. Stayner later escaped captivity along with 5-year-old Timothy White, who had also been kidnapped. Stayner died in a motorcycle accident at age 24 in 1989. Stayner’s brother, Cary, was sentenced to death after being convicted of killing four women in Yosemite National Park.
The case of three long-missing Cleveland women found alive in the home of their captor, Ariel Castro, stunned the nation and drew intense media spotlight. Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, who vanished separately between 2002 and 2004, were freed in a dramatic rescue May 6, 2013, after about a decade in captivity in Castro’s Cleveland home.
On Oct. 6, 2002, Shawn Hornbeck, 11, was abducted as he rode his bike to a friend’s house in a St. Louis suburb. He was found more than four years later in an apartment with another kidnapping victim, 13-year-old Ben Ownby. Michael Devlin was sentenced to life in prison for the kidnappings.