"When this happened we were not ready to make statements to media because we wanted to protect him," Tombstone, Ariz., native Melissa Carreira told AOL News. "But now, after reading all the ridiculous things online, we are more apt to speak. There is no denying [the story] is strange. He made a bad decision, but people are getting more morbid entertainment out of it than anything else."
According to Tombstone Marshal Billy Cloud, his office received a phone call from government officials on Wednesday asking them to conduct a welfare check on Fattig's mother, 68-year-old Jill Fattig. The elder Fattig had not cashed any of her security checks for about a year and officials were concerned for her well-being.
A deputy was dispatched to Fattig's residence on North Drive. When she failed to answer her door, he drove to her son's home on Fremont Street. When questioned by the deputy about his mother's whereabouts, Timothy Fattig said she was hospitalized in Tucson. A check with the hospital there, however, revealed that was not the case. It was then, Cloud said, that Fattig began to reveal the bizarre details of the case.
Tombstone is a famous Wild West frontier town that is best known as the staging ground for the historical gunfight at the O.K. Corral in October 1881. The fight, which involved frontier marshal Wyatt Earp, is generally regarded as the most famous in Old West history.
Today, Tombstone boasts about 1,500 residents and is the type of town where "everybody knows everybody," according to Janice Hendricks, editor of the Tombstone Times. Timothy Fattig moved into the area about 10 years ago, just before publishing his first book, "Wyatt Earp: The Biography," in 2003.
"Tim quickly became a good asset to the town," Hendricks said. "He is a great biographer of Wyatt Earp and he plays a cowboy at the O.K. Corral. He's also a ticket taker there."
Fattig had come to Arizona from California. It was not long after his move that his parents followed their only child to Tombstone.
"His parents were very much supportive of him and moved here for him," Hendricks said. "His father was very ill when they moved here. His mom was taking care of him and he died a few years ago. His mother was not one of those people who walk the streets who everybody knows. She very much stayed to herself, but there was a strong bond between her and her son. He had quite an attachment to her, and she was certainly devoted to him."
According to Carreira, Fattig is "always there for others" but has difficulty letting people into his own world.
"He is a very private person," she said. "When his dad died he was pretty upset about that. To really understand him, you would have to know him. He does not like to burden other people with his problems."
When Fattig unburdened himself about his mother last week, he allegedly said she had died about a year ago. Deputies confirmed this after they obtained a search warrant. It was then that he was charged with suspicion of negligent homicide, police said.
Carreira said Fattig told police he was so grief stricken by his mother's death that he refused to face it.
"He [was the one] who found her dead," she said. "He was so devastated [by the discovery] that he locked the door, walked away and never came back. [My assumption is that] by the time he had come to terms with it, he was terrified to contact the authorities."
When news of Fattig's arrest spread, headlines in the media began portraying him as a "horror filmmaker" and compared the story to a scene straight out of Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho." Blogs and websites also mistakenly reported that he lived in the same house as his mother and went about his daily life with her decomposing corpse a hop, skip and a jump away. Neither is true, according to his friends.
"It is all sensationalism," Carreira said. "The horror movie thing was more of a hobby. He has not produced any movies. He has written a script for two movies, and everyone is making him out to be a filmmaker when he was actually in the process of writing a book about mining in the 1800s. I don't see how enjoying horror movies or writing makes him a killer."
"His persona in Tombstone is not the horror guy," she said. "He's the Wyatt Earp guy."
According to The Associated Press, Cochise County Attorney Ed Rheinheimer said an autopsy on Jill Fattig was completed late Monday and showed no evidence of homicide. As a result, Rheinheimer's office declined to file felony charges against Timothy Fattig and he was released from jail.
Marshal Cloud previously said that if the coroner determined Fattig's mother died of natural causes he would likely face charges of failure to report a death. So far, no additional charges have been filed.
"Tim is a great guy," friend David Hight told AOL News. "Let's just wait ... to see what happens. We all have skeletons in our closets."