Almost a quarter century after a 5-year-old New Jersey boy went missing, his mother was found guilty of his murder, putting an end to one of New Jersey’s most notorious cold cases, reports NJ.com.
Michelle Lodzinski, 48, “appeared to be crying and shaking, and was shaking her head,” after the verdict was read, reports the Asbury Park Press.
Lodzinski’s son, Timmy Wiltsey, went missing on May 25, 1991, when the pair were attending a carnival in Sayreville, New Jersey. Lodzinski first told authorities he disappeared when she went to get a soda, and long denied she was involved in his death.
In subsequent interviews with law enforcement officials, Lodzinski, then a 23-year-old single mom, gave police several conflicting stories about his disappearance, reports MyCentralJersey.com.
Hundreds of volunteers combed the area for signs of Timmy, and his “smiling face” was one of the first to appear on milk cartons used to raise awareness of missing children, reports NJ.com.
Eleven months after he disappeared, Timmy’s skeletal remains were found in a swampy creek in Edison, New Jersey, near the fullfillment center where Lodzinski once worked, according to reports.
While some law enforcement officials and community members long suspected Lodzinski was involved with Timothy’s disappearance, it took them more than 20 years to charge her with his murder.
During this time, Lodzinski moved to Minnesota and then Florida, settling in Port St. Lucie in 2003 and working as a paralegal for a law firm while living in virtual anonymity, reports MyCentralJersey.com.
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The case was reopened in 2014 with the discovery of new evidence: A child’s blanket found near Timmy’s remains came from the Lodzinski home and was at the core of the case, reports NJ.com.
“She dumped his body in a creek like a piece of trash, but she left behind a telling clue: this blanket, ” Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Christie Bevacqua said in her opening statement to the jury, per NJ.com. “No other killer could get this.”
Lodzinski and her mother had told investigators they didn’t recognize the blanket, but when an investigator showed the blanket to a relative of Lodzinski’s – who had babysat Timmy – the relative immediately recognized it, prosecutors said, per MyCentralJersey.com.
After an eight-week trial, the jury took just four hours to convict Lodzinski in Middlesex County Superior Court in New Brunswick, according to reports.
Lodzinski will reportedly be sentenced on Aug. 23.