When a jury reaches its verdict in a case of the unthinkable, the justice meted out often falls short. That was the feeling that permeated a New Jersey courtroom today when the verdict of Florida woman charged with the 1991 murder of her 5-year-old child was read. Ultimately, the verdict reached by the New Jersey jury led to a guilty verdict against a woman who many believe has gotten away with her horrific crime for far too long.
Michelle Lodzinski’s 5-year-old son was reported missing back in May of 1991. At the time, she lived in New Jersey with the little boy, Timothy Wiltsey. Since his disappearance, she had relocated to Port St. Lucie. The day her son went missing was the day Lodzinski’s long road to a guilty verdict began. The young mother initially told local police that her son child had gone missing at a local carnival, reports ABC 7 NY.
She was unable to stick to that version of events, however, and the jury learned during the trial that she changed her story repeatedly before telling the police that her young son had been abducted.
Over the course of the trial, well before the jury reached its verdict, prosecutors told jurors that Lodzinski, who is now 48-years-old, never took Timothy to the carnival. Rather, they accused her of killing her son elsewhere and dumping his tiny body in a ditch because he had become burdensome in her life.
During the trial, prosecutors revealed to the jury that Timothy’s body was found almost a year after he was reported missing. Following his disappearance, authorities had organized and carried out several weeks worth of intensive searches for the child, but to no avail. He was ultimately discovered 11 months after disappearing seemingly without a trace in a swampy area miles away from where his mother had said he’d been abducted. Coincidentally, his body was discovered not far from a building where his mother had once worked. Due to the skeletal nature of his remains, the jury was informed, a cause of death was unable to be determined.
Distraught members of the jury panel were told by prosecutors that several of his possessions were found near his body, including a blanket, a shoe, and a balloon. Prosecutors told the jury that both the balloon and the shoe featured logos of Timothy’s favorite cartoon characters, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Despite changing her story repeatedly, and despite today’s guilty verdict, Michelle Lodzinski wasn’t charged with her son’s 1991 murder until 2014. For some reason, investigators and prosecutors into the crime declined to press charges against the woman after her son’s decomposed body was found. However, in the early 2010ss, prosecutors decided to reopen the cold case.
According to investigators, three of the woman’s former babysitters identified the blanket found with the 5-year-old’s body as having come from his mother’s apartment. That piece of evidence, the jury learned, was at odds with every account Lodzinski had given of her son’s disappearance/abduction.
Lodzinski’s defense attorney argued that there was no forensic evidence on the blanket connecting it to either the victim or the accused. He also attempted to secure a not-guilty verdict by telling the jury that one of the babysitters had a personal beef with the defendant and that the memories of the other two sitters may be suspect. They jury wasn’t buying it, though, and reached a guilty verdict in the case
The jury’s guilty verdict was read one-week shy of the 25th anniversary of the day murdering mom reported her child missing. The verdict came just one day after the judge in the trial dismissed the jury foreman for “undisclosed reasons,” replacing him on the jury with an alternate just four hours into deliberations.
After the jury’s verdict was announced, reactions on social media were swift, reported NJ.com. Some people believed that justice had finally been served in the case of a little boy taken away too soon. Others expressed shock and sympathy for the defendant’s surviving children, teenage boys born after Timothy’s murder, who will grow up with a mother convicted of murdering their brother in cold blood.
The jury that reached a guilty verdict in this case was made of seven men and five women, and the trial of Michelle Lodzinski spanned eight weeks of testimony. According to an NJ.com report, when the jury’s verdict was read, the defendant slumped forward and her body began to shake. She didn’t comment. She was handcuffed and led out of the courtroom in police custody, where she will remain until her sentencing hearing on August 23.
[Photo by Patti Sapone/The Star-Ledger via AP/Pool]