“While the credibility and the weight of the evidence will ultimately be up to the jury, a case under circumstantial evidence has been established, and the defense has not met its burden to dismiss the indictment.”
One of my readers alerted me to this case. I am glad she did. It doesn’t make sense to me.
Supposedly Timmy Wiltsey was murdered by his mother Michelle. She stood trial and was found guilty in a circumstantial case. She has not been sentenced yet at the time of writing pending review of juror misconduct. The foreman violated the Judge’s instructions and took to the Internet to do a search.
There is a lot about Timmy Wiltsey’s case online. In the resource section at the end of this post you will find links to some of the articles I found most useful.
Let’s start with Timmy’s mom. When Michelle Lodzinski gave birth to her first son Timmy she was only 18 years old. I have not seen anything in the public domain about her parental home situation, what her relationship was like with her parents, and what at that time of birth her state of mind was. I can imagine that as a teen-mom she might have been overwhelmed. Maybe she suppressed some emotions. I am not making excuses for her but I do wish to stress how young Michelle was when her life changed drastically.
According to what I found in the public domain, Timmy Wiltsey “was a normal little boy with a shrill voice and a peculiar habit of sleeping with his sneakers on. He loved firetrucks, the ice cream man and his cat Norton.”
Timmy’s father is George Wiltsey. The relationship didn’t last long. Michelle raised Timmy alone. According to the papers, George was ruled out as a suspect in this case.
On the surface Michelle seemed a doting mother. Timmy went to a Catholic school and was well-cared for. Neighbors saw a hardworking single mother playing with and helping her son with homework. But from the public domain comes another picture.
At Michelle’s trial, a former school nurse at Timmy’s St. Mary’s Elementary School in South Amboy testified that he was often late or absent. Mary Ellen Quirk described him as “very quiet and shy, but friendly, a very sweet little boy and very healthy.” She described Michelle as quiet. Drop off and pick up were done in a routine manner without a lot of public display of affection. There is nothing wrong with the latter but the first is worrisome.
Why was Timmy often absent? How many times in one year? In the comment section from another article I found this, see picture as well.
This reader says that Timmy’s last report card showed that he was late “63 times and absent 23 times.” I wonder if anyone at school ever spoke to Michelle about this.
Public and private schools have rules for truancy and attendance. I cannot imagine that in either a private or public school people would allow Michelle to struggle like this. If the nurse was right and Timmy was very healthy than obviously we have to look into other issues than physical health. What was going on with Michelle during that time? Some neighbors said that they saw a doting mother. Did they ever see her struggle in the morning to get Timmy to school? Was Timmy seen at home during school days?
When Timmy vanished Michelle was only 23 years old. During the trial, the prosecution told the jury about Michelle’s various statements about what happened to Timmy. I will explore this later on.
The prosecution told the jury that she “struggled with jobs and relationships because of the boy and wanted to move on in life without him.” Where is the evidence? I did not find (if you know where contact me so we can update this part of the post) any information about relationships. I did see she had several jobs. I’d like to see an exhaustive job list in chronological order detailing the reasons for terminating the contract. Did she quit? Why? Was she fired? Why? How did she make ends meet if she was in between jobs? Do the days she was out of a job coincide with Timmy absent or late at school? And wanting to move on without him? How do you prove that? Journal entries? Did she ever say that? Was she ever hostile towards Timmy?
Let’s look at the case’s timeline
May 25, 1991: Timmy Wiltsey (5) disappeared from a carnival in John F. Kennedy Memorial Park (Sayreville, New Jersey) during the Memorial Day weekend. Michelle told the authorities that he went missing around 730pm. She had left him alone in a line waiting for a ride while she went to get a soda. After she reported Timmy missing, the carnival was suspended. Police, firefighters, and others searched extensively until 2am. This story, about getting a soda and briefly leaving Timmy alone, changed several times.
When Michelle reported Timmy missing it was around 9pm. What happened between 730 and 9pm? Why did she wait 90min to report a five-year-old missing? When asked where they had been all day, Michelle told police that they had visited Holmdel Park earlier in the day. They left there around 6pm and arrived at the carnival between 7 and 730pm. I checked with Google Maps and Holmdel and JFK Memorial Park are about half an hour apart by car. How do we know that they left Holmdel around 6pm? And if so, why did it take her 90min to arrive at the carnival?
When asked why she left Timmy alone in the line she explained that he didn’t want to lose his spot in line. This is possible. He’s a kid and excited. However, he’s five and common sense dictates that you do not leave a small child alone or, you leave him with a mature adult who you trust. More about this later.
Michelle stayed until around 1am in the park. Her brother, Raymond, a Sayreville police officer, drove her home. He remembers that she was quiet. Her estranged boyfriend, Fred Bruno, had been told about an emergency and was waiting for her on her front porch. He has been cleared by police as a suspect.
Michelle returned to the park early the next morning. She was accompanied by family and friends. Some people labelled her behaviour as disinterested and some thought she was in shock.
That night, on Sunday, Michelle was asked questions in the interrogation room at the Sayreville police department. Here it is that we start with the various statements that she gave about what happened when Timmy vanished. In short:
- somebody took him from her in the park
- two men took him, one had a knife
- a female and two men took her son. She met a client from a previous job (as a bank teller) in the line. This client was Ellen, a go-go dancer. She was with a child and two men. They talked while waiting. Michelle wanted a soda but Timmy didn’t want to lose his place in line. Ellen offered to keep an eye on him. Supposedly, one of the men then pulled a knife (nobody in the line saw this?), threatened to hurt Timmy if Michelle screamed, took the boy, and left. Police never found a woman called Ellen and those two men.
Detectives also had trouble with Michelle’s story about Holmdel Park. The lot where she said that she had parked her car was closed that day. Park Rangers confirmed that. At JFK Park, no witnesses remember seeing Timmy. One woman did remember Michelle in line for a soda but she didn’t see a boy. That would be correct if Michelle left him either alone in line or with another adult.
May 26, 1991: A massive search was conducted by several hundreds of people. “We are satisfied that he’s not in the park and there is nothing further we can get there at this time,” Sayreville Police Sgt. Timothy Brennan says after the search was called off at noon.
May 27, 1991: Police eliminate George Wiltsey, Timmy’s father, as a suspect. George had not seen his son since he was a baby. He was at home in Iowa when that Timmy vanished.
May 29, 1991: Middlesex County Prosecutor Alan Rockoff said nobody can corroborate that Michelle took Timmy to Holmdel Park and then to the carnival. If this is true then the possibility is that Timmy may have vanished before May 25, 1991. It would be interesting to check his school records to see whether he was in school the week before Memorial Day weekend. However, we do have a witness who remembers Michelle from waiting in the line for soda so that part remains the same.
May 31, 1991: “America’s Most Wanted” dedicates part of a show to Timmy.
Oct. 26, 1991: Bound Brook High School teacher Dan O’Malley finds a muddy sneaker behind the Raritan Center office complex in Edison. Authorities think that it might be Timmy’s. It was a size 13 Teen-Age Mutant Ninja Turtle printed sneaker. This matched with Michelle’s description of the clothes he wore last. However, when she was shown the sneaker she told police it wasn’t her son’s. Police sent the shoe to the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, but the test results were inconclusive.
April 23, 1992: Investigators from the prosecutor’s office, the State Police, the Sayreville police and the FBI start searching the area where O’Malley found the sneaker. “In less than a minute we found a second sneaker 20 or 30 yards from where the first sneaker was found” an officer recalled. “Two hours later we found a skull.”
If the second sneaker was that close to the first I wonder why O’Malley didn’t find it first. Do we know whether he just picked up the first sneaker and left or did he search around a little to see if he could find the other one? Not accusing him of anything, just wondering out loud here. 20 to 30 yards isn’t a lot of territory to cross.
About the skull, it is all we have from Timmy. It was found inside a tire in the Red Root Creek off Olympic Drive at Raritan Center Industrial Park. It was in a marshy area just a few hundred yards from where his mother once worked as a secretary. Coincidence or not?
Timmy was identified by his dental records. His skull does not tell us how he died. His death was declared a homicide but the skull revealed “absolutely no evidence of trauma.” So, Timmy’s death could have been murder or death from natural causes or an accident.
Timmy was buried on May 12, 1992, at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Keyport.
Now onto something that really bugs me: the blanket.
Authorities found a blanket in the same area. How long that blanket was out there we do not know. I also don’t know whether the M-Vac was used to search for touch DNA or biological particles that can tell us something about the environment to which the blanket (previously) had been exposed.
Michelle’s niece Jennifer Blair Dilcher, and Dilcher’s best friend at the time, Danielle Gerder, identified it positively as Timmy’s. Dilcher used to babysit Timmy. I wonder whether the blanket had any specific marks, tears, torn patches, etc. that made it stand out from other blankets. Was it monogrammed? How exactly do you positively recognize a blanket as someone’s property after some time in which the blanket was outside exposed to the elements? It had to have some marker to make it unique.
The papers said that Dilcher had a visual reaction to the blanket which some took as evidence that indeed the blanket was Timmy’s. I think that she had a genuine reaction to the fact that police showed up with something that might be related to Timmy. The entire family knew that Timmy was missing. They all waited for a break so obviously when the cops show up it had to mean there was a break in the case! Had they shown her a soccer ball she’d probably have reacted the same way. Why? Grief!
What she showed was sheer grief but the trigger wasn’t the blanket. The trigger was the realization that the police might have a break in the case and it made her relive everything in a split second. I am astonished that I didn’t see this explained in any of the newspapers reporting about the trial.
May 12, 1992: A funeral mass takes place for Timmy after his skull was released.
Jan. 21, 1994: Michelle’s family reports her missing in what will turn out to be a hoax. It is a classic example of Michelle’s confused state of mind.
May 27, 2011: In a renewed effort to solve the case a new reward of an undisclosed amount was announced.
Aug. 6, 2014: Michelle is arrested for Timmy’s murder. At this time, Michelle has two sons. I have not been able to find in the papers who the father(s) are.
Aug. 7, 2014: A Martin County Florida judge orders Michelle held without bond. She is deemed a flight risk.
Sept. 23, 2015: According to New Brunswick Superior Court Judge Dennis Nieves the state had provided enough evidence for a trial.
Mar. 16, 2016: The trial starts with opening statements the next day.
April 1, 2016: The blue and white blanket becomes the central piece in this trial.
Defense Attorney Gerald Krovatin countered that six other relatives/friends could not identify the blanket. However, Judge Nieves did not question the identification by Dilcher. He said that it was unlikely that Timmy had the blanket with him on the day he went missing. I agree, it was 90F and it was going to be an active day. But from that you cannot conclude that therefore the blanket must have come from Michelle’s home. The first part of his conclusion seems right. Michelle never said in any statement that Timmy had his blanket with him that day. The second part makes no sense. Unless we can exclusively tie the blanket to Timmy we do not know where the blanket came from.
Defense Attorney Krovatin also showed that one of the baby sitters who identified the blanket and who testified at trial was angry with Michelle about a custody issue. I am not sure I understand this. Are we speaking about Timmy’s custody? What else?
I’d like to know more about that blanket. Did it have a specific, easily identifiable design? Was it of a particular name brand? The problem is that no forensic evidence can tie Michelle or Timmy to the blanket. Isn’t that odd? If that was Timmy’s blanket their DNA must have been all over that thing.
April 28, 2016: A forensic expert for the defense tells the jury that the crime scene where Timmy’s skull was found was “mishandled” by police. More details, please!
May 12, 2016: The case goes to the jury.
May 18, 2016: The jury finds Michelle guilty of murder.
Jan 5, 2017: Lodzinski is sentenced to 30 years in state prison without possibility of parole.
Rest in peace, Timmy.