In 2011, 6-year-old Timmothy Pitzen's mother picked him up at school in Illinois, took him to the zoo and a water park, and then killed herself at a hotel, leaving a note in which she said her son was fine but that no one would ever find him.
On Wednesday, a 14-year-old boy came forward to tell authorities he is Timmothy.
The boy claimed he escaped from two kidnappers in the Cincinnati area and then fled across a bridge into Kentucky.
Authorities from Timmothy's hometown of Aurora, Illinois, are now checking out the teenager's story.
"We've probably had thousands of tips of him popping up in different areas," Aurora police Sgt. Bill Rowley said. "We have no idea what we're driving down there for. It could be Pitzen. It could be a hoax."
Timmothy Pitzen's grandmother, Alana Anderson, told WISN-TV Wednesday that authorities have told the family "very little."
"We just know a 14-year-old boy was found and went to the police," Anderson said. "We don't want to get our hopes up and our family's hopes up until we know something. We just don't want to get our hopes up. We've had false reports and false hopes before."
Police in the Cincinnati suburb of Sharonville wrote in a short incident report that the boy said Wednesday morning that he had "just escaped from two kidnappers" he described as white men with body builder-type physiques. They were in a Ford SUV with Wisconsin license plates and had been staying at a Red Roof Inn.
Sharonville police said on the department's Facebook page that the information about the boy's reported escape was received by police in Campbell County, Kentucky.
"The City of Sharonville Police Department, like every other police agency in the greater Cincinnati area, was requested to check their Red Roof Inn hotels regarding this incident," the post read. "To the best of our knowledge, we have no information indicating that the missing juvenile was ever in the City of Sharonville."
The FBI said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that its offices in Cincinnati and in Louisville, Kentucky, were working on a missing child investigation with Aurora police and police departments in Cincinnati and Newport, Kentucky, and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office in Ohio. The FBI offered no other details.
The body of 43-year-old Amy Fry-Pitzen was found on May 15, 2011. Her wrists were slit. Police believe she killed herself at a hotel in Rockford, Illinois, after taking Timmothy to the zoo and a Wisconsin water park.
A note she left said Timmothy was fine but that no would ever find him. Police investigating her death said she took steps that suggest she might have dropped her son off with a friend.
At the time, police searched for Timmothy in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa.