Oakton Boy Missing

Oakton Boy Missing

Volunteers, police search local shopping malls for runaway.

As any grandfather would be, Dennis Fester is worried about his missing grandson, James Fitzsimmons. For more than two weeks, no one has heard from the Oakton boy since he ran away from home on Jan. 14.

"This just blows us away. We’re having a tough time trying to figure this out," said Fester, who described James as carefree and loving.

Fester gathered with other family members, friends and neighbors last Saturday to conduct search parties for the missing boy. James Vincent Fitzsimmons, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Herndon Middle School, left his Oakton home at approximately 6 p.m. after an argument with his stepmother.

Police are concerned about James because unlike other runaway cases, no one, including his friends, has heard from James since his disappearance. They are also concerned about the amount of time that has passed since James ran away. Most runaways return within three to five days, if not within a couple of hours.

"The longer a juvenile is out on their own, the chances increase that they might get themselves into a harmful situation," said Fairfax County police 2nd Lt. Charles W. Bond.

On Saturday, Deborah Aylward, a private investigator specializing in runaway cases, volunteered to organize search parties for James. More than 20 people went in groups to scope out Tysons Corner Center, Fair Oaks Mall, Reston Town Center and Manassas Mall. Aylward said that by going to the shopping centers, the search parties could generate tips or eliminate possibilities of where he might have gone.

"The fact that no one’s heard from him requires concerted effort to find him," Aylward said.

Family members and friends describe James — a tall, red-haired teen-ager — as well-spoken, smart and impressionable. He wanted to be liked, and he enjoyed jokes and games.

However, those close to him also say that James had some problems, as well. He recently became interested in the goth culture, a subculture that highlights angst and the macabre and whose name is derived from the literary genre that emphasized remote, gloomy, melancholy settings..

"He felt really annoyed and ticked off on the bus," said his classmate Chris Hogue, who rode the bus with James. Chris volunteered to search for James with his friend and his friend’s mother. "It’s kind of hard to explain, but I feel sorry for him."

When James left home on Jan. 14, it was because of a disagreement between himself and his mother, Tina Rice. But despite occasional spats between them, Rice said there was nothing unusual or alarming in James’ behavior.

"Come home, because we love him. We want him home. We miss him very much," Rice said, when asked what message she would convey to James.

James’ father, Rick Fitzsimmons, said James came to live with him and his stepmother, Tina, four years ago, after living in Arlington with his mother.

"We love him, and we want to work with him to make things right," Rick Fitzsimmons said.

Grandfather Fester encouraged James to call his Pappy and Nanna, his grandmother, collect.

"I’d tell [him] to pick up the phone and call his Pappy … there’s nothing to be afraid of," Fester said.

If anyone spots James or has a tip, Bond suggested that he call Fairfax County Police at 703-691-2131, if the person resides in the county. Otherwise, Bond said that people should contact their county police department. They may also contact 1-800-THE-LOST, the hot line run by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.