NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – A Florida woman long suspected of killing her 5-year-old son 25 years ago was convicted Wednesday by a jury that apparently believed New Jersey prosecutors' picture of her as a struggling young mother who murdered the boy because he had become a burden.
Sitting with her hands clasped in front of her at the defense table, Michelle Lodzinski shook visibly as the verdict was read.
The 48-year-old didn't comment as she was led out of the courtroom. Her attorney, Gerald Krovatin, said she was devastated by the verdict and plans to appeal.
Her brother, Michael Lodzinski, was heard saying to her, "I love you sis, very, very much."
The verdict came one week shy of the 25th anniversary of the disappearance of 5-year-old Timothy Wiltsey on May 25, 1991. Lodzinski reported the boy missing from a carnival in Sayreville, but she almost immediately became a suspect when she changed her story several times, eventually saying the boy had been kidnapped.
Lodzinski faces up to life in prison when she is sentenced Aug. 23.
Outside the courthouse, Michael Lodzinski said he had only asked his sister about Timothy a few times over the years and that she hadn't told family members what happened.
"She's the only one that knows. We don't know anything, and she never told us anything," he said. "He was a great little boy, and this should never have happened to him."
Lodzinski said he had remained close to his sister in the intervening years even amid the lingering uncertainty about her son's death.
"After a certain point I had to compromise myself," he said. "I knew something wasn't right, but I had to put it aside. And I have to live with that myself. We didn't know anything."
Lodzinski, who has two other sons in Florida and who was living in Port St. Lucie, was charged with murder in 2014, after investigators reopened the case and found witnesses who could identify a blanket found near the boy's remains as having come from Lodzinski's apartment.
No forensic evidence tied Lodzinski or the boy to the blanket or other items found near his remains 11 months after he disappeared. A cause of death couldn't be established due to the deterioration of the skeleton.
Instead, prosecutors told jurors Lodzinski's changing stories about the boy's disappearance demonstrated consciousness of guilt. They painted her as a young woman — she was 23 at the time of his disappearance — who struggled with jobs and relationships because of the boy and wanted to move on in life without him.
They contended Lodzinski used the carnival to concoct the kidnapping story and that no one who knew Timothy saw him with her.
Krovatin focused his defense on the absence of physical evidence.
He also produced witnesses who worked at the carnival who claimed they saw a boy who looked like Timothy. And he put on the stand an ex-convict from Arizona who testified that a former associate confessed to killing a young boy under circumstances similar to the Timothy's death.
Krovatin also noted that one of the baby sitters who identified the blanket and testified during the trial had expressed anger at Lodzinski in the past over a custody issue, and said the recollections of two other baby sitters were suspect.
Prosecutors didn't comment after Wednesday's verdict.