'Stunning Turnaround' for NJ Mom Convicted of Murder

State's top court overturns Michele Lodzinski's conviction for killing son
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 28, 2021 3:25 PM CST
Court Overturns NJ Mom's Conviction for Killing Son
Michelle Lodzinski watches the jurors enter the courtroom before opening statements in her murder trial on Wednesday, March 16, 2016 in New Brunswick, NJ.   (Patti Sapone/NJ Advance Media via AP, Pool)

A New Jersey woman convicted by a jury in 2016 of the murder of her 5-year-old son 15 years earlier had her conviction thrown out on Tuesday. In what the AP calls a "stunning turnaround" for 54-year-old Michelle Lodzinski, New Jersey's Supreme Court decided that prosecutors had failed to present enough evidence that Lodzinski had "purposefully or knowingly" caused the death of son Timothy Wiltsey. The boy's remains were found in 1992, almost a year after Lodzinski reported him missing from a carnival in Sayreville, MyCentralJersey.com reports. Lodzinski, who repeatedly changed her story, was long considered the prime suspect, but she was not arrested and charged until 2014, on what would have been Timothy's 29th birthday.

Her lawyers argued during the 2016 trial and on appeal that homicide could not be proven because the boy's body had deteriorated too much to determine a cause of death. In May, a 3-3 decision from the state's top court allowed Lodzinski's conviction to stand, but the court unexpectedly decided to reconsider the case in October, the Star-Ledger reports. Appellate judge Jose Fuentes cast the tiebreaking vote in Tuesday's 4-3 decision. Lodzinski attorney Gerald Krovatin praised the decision, noting that she can't be tried again without violating double jeopardy laws. He said it was a great day for the principle that "convictions have to be based on evidence, not on speculation or emotion." Lodzinski had been serving a sentence of 30 years to life. It's now unclear when she will be released.

During Lodzinski's trial, no evidence was offered to show that Timothy "died by the negligent, reckless, or purposeful or knowing acts of a person, even if that person were Lodzinski," Justice Barry Albin wrote in the majority opinion. The three dissenting judges said the acquittal was "unwarranted and unjust" and undermined the role of the jury in the justice system. The Star-Ledger reports Michael Lodzinski, Lodzinski's younger brother, also condemned the decision. "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," he said. (More Michelle Lodzinski stories.)

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