State Watch

New Jersey court throws out woman’s conviction for killing 5-year-old son

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The New Jersey Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned the conviction of a woman accused of killing her 5-year-old son, formally acquitting her of the 1991 crime.

The court ruled 4-3 there was not enough evidence to conclude Michelle Lodzinski murdered her son, Timothy Wiltsey, whose body was found in 1992 after he went missing a year prior, NJ.com reported.

Justice Barry Albin said there was simply a lack of evidence proving that Lodzinski, 54, committed the crime.

“Even if the evidence suggested that Timothy did not die by accident, no testimony or evidence was offered to distinguish whether Timothy died by the negligent, reckless, or purposeful or knowing acts of a person, even if that person were Lodzinski,” he wrote in the majority opinion.

The acquittal is the latest in one of New Jersey’s most infamous “cold cases,” or unsolved crimes. Lodzinski was convicted of the crime in 2016 after her niece identified a blue blanket found with Wiltsey to be Lodzinki’s. After being convicted of the crime, she was ordered to serve a 30-year sentence, according to NJ.com.

Lodzinski appealed the case, but in 2019 an appellate court upheld her conviction. The state’s Supreme Court agreed to rehear the case, first in May and then again in October after a procedural and legal mistake forced a retrial.

The case was contentious and justices were split — they had to bring in an appellate judge to cast a tiebreaking vote on Tuesday.

Lodzinski’s lawyers hailed the acquittal but others decried it. The dissenting justices called it a “disservice to our jury system and a grave injustice to the victim.”

Among those dissatisfied was Lodzinski’s brother, Michael Lodzinski, who issued a scathing statement to NJ.com.

“What happened today was just a result of some legal maneuvers and employment of a rarely used rule to insure a certain outcome, it is by no means a declaration of her innocence,” he said. “Justice Albin and his group believe they have righted some great wrong today but all they did was rob justice from a little boy, shame on them.”

Lodzinski was a 23-year-old mother in South Amboy, N.J. when her son went missing. The mother said she had taken him to a carnival in Kennedy Park when he disappeared.

Lodzinski’s story would change over time, including details about a woman named “Ellen” who allegedly agreed to watch Lodzinski’s son while she went to grab a drink. When Lodzinski returned, the woman — and her son — was gone. Later, Lodzinski said she was threatened at knifepoint by a man associated with Ellen.

The 5-year-old boy was found at a creek near the Raritan Center, where Lodzinski had worked. His death was ruled a homicide but no specific cause of death was attributed to the murder, according to Albin’s opinion.

There was not enough evidence to charge anyone with the crime at the time, but the case was reopened in 2011 when the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office linked the blanket to Lodzinski based on her niece’s statement. Prosecutors said the motive was that Lodzinski was struggling to raise the child with no support from the father.

The state Supreme Court decided in its opinion that “no such blanket appeared in any of the photographs of Lodzinski’s apartment,” and witnesses could not identify it as Lodzinski’s, and the case was based on unproven circumstantial evidence.

Tags court trial Exoneration Michelle Lodzinski Murder New Jersey New Jersey Supreme Court overturned conviction South Amboy Timothy Wiltsey
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