The New Jersey Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed Michelle Lodzinski’s conviction. In 2016, the woman was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder of her then 5-year-old son.
It wasn’t until 2016 that Lodzinski was found guilty of the murder of Timothy Wiltsey, her 5-year-old son, who disappeared in 1991. The boy’s disappearance is one of the most notorious cases in the area. The woman said the boy went missing during a local carnival, but the investigators thought otherwise.
The then single mother was considered the prime suspect from the start because several contradictions arose in her statements. For example, she told the police that she left her son alone for a while to get a soft drink, but at another time, she said that she had asked a woman to look after the boy. A third version of the story involved a woman and two men who had threatened with a knife before taking the boy.
It wasn’t until a year later that Timothy’s body was discovered in a nearby swampy area, near an office building where Lodzinski himself had once worked. His cause of death could not be determined because the body was already in a state of decomposition.
It was not until the summer of 2014 that Lodzinski was charged with the death of her son – who would have been 29 at the time. By this time, the woman was living in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and had two other children. The reason for the sudden indictment was a new lead in the case. A former babysitter for the boy had identified a blue blanket found with his body and recognized as coming from the mother and boy’s home.
“She dumped his body in a creek like a piece of garbage, but she left behind a telling clue, a blanket,” prosecutors said. Lodzinski, they said, was a mother who struggled and felt burdened by her son. They argued that the evidence and her conflicting answers during the initial interrogations was sufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Lodzinski’s conviction was upheld by an appeals court in 2019 and again by a deeply divided Supreme Court in May this year. Not long after, the state’s Supreme Court agreed to rehearse the case in October after admitting it made a procedural error by ruling on a decision of the Court of Appeals that applied an incorrect standard of law.
On Tuesday, New Jersey’s highest court reached a decision. She rejected the mother’s conviction for the death of her 5-year-old son. There would have been insufficient evidence to prove that the boy’s death was intentional. As a result of this ruling, Lodzinski cannot be tried again in the case.
“This is a great day for the rule of law and for the proposition that convictions should be based on evidence, not speculation or emotion,” said Lodzinski’s attorney, Gerald Krovatin. “Michelle is immensely grateful to everyone who has stood by her through this long ordeal.”
Lodzinksi’s brother, however, thinks otherwise. “What happened today was the result of some legal manoeuvring and the use of a rarely used rule to ensure a certain outcome; it is by no means a declaration of her innocence. The judges believe they have righted a great wrong, but all they did was rob a little boy of justice.”