One of New Jersey’s most infamous cold cases entered another chapter Tuesday when the state’s Supreme Court heard arguments on whether a Florida woman’s 2016 conviction for killing her 5-year-old son 25 years ago should be thrown out.
Michelle Lodzinski was living in Port St. Lucie and had two older children when she was arrested in 2014. Investigators say they had long suspected her because of inconsistencies in her accounts of what happened to 5-year-old Timothy Wiltsey in May 1991, and eventually charged her after witnesses identified a blanket found near the boy’s body as belonging to Lodzinski.
Lodzinski had told police that Wiltsey disappeared while they were at a carnival in Sayreville. At the trial, prosecutors portrayed her as a struggling young mother who saw the boy as a burden, and they told jurors no one who knew Wiltsey saw him with her at the carnival that night. Lodzinski currently is serving a 30-year sentence.
Lodzinski’s attorneys have argued her conviction should be tossed because prosecutors never produced evidence that showed she purposely caused his death.
Wiltsey’s remains were found a few miles away the following year, and though a medical expert testified that in her opinion the boy’s death was a homicide, the manner in which he died remains unknown. No forensic evidence such as DNA or hair fibers connected Lodzinski to the blanket.
“There was no weapon, there was no DNA found, there was no cause of death proven by the state,” Gerald Krovatin, an attorney representing Lodzinski, told the court. “No theory of how Timmy died. The medical examiner found no trauma at all to his skeletal remains, and there was no proof of Michelle Lodzinski having any mental health or physical health issues that would have reasonably led to a conclusion that she was, as the state claims, at the breaking point.”
Defense attorneys also argued a mistrial should have been granted after the trial judge dismissed a juror during deliberations for conducting online research into FBI investigatory methods.
While admitting under questioning by Justice Barry Albin that prosecutors hadn’t presented evidence that Lodzinski had ever abused the boy or failed to provide care for him, Assistant Middlesex County Prosecutor Joie Piderit said the jury’s verdict was correct because of the totality of the circumstantial evidence.
“The state does not have to prove how Timmy died,” Piderit told the court. “It is clear the state did not know the mechanism of the death. The state, however, did prove that defendant knowingly and purposely caused the death or serious bodily injury resulting in death.”
A ruling could take several weeks or months.