NEW BRUNSWICK - The mother of a 5-year-old boy who was reported missing from a Sayreville carnival in 1991 is now charged with his murder.
Timothy Wiltsey's skeletal remains were found in a wooded part of the Raritan Center industrial complex in Edison almost a year after he was reported missing.
Prosecutors say Michelle Lodzinski, who lived on Augusta Street in South Amboy before relocating to Florida, claimed her son had disappeared. For more than two decades, the case sat cold.
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Dawn Matthews was Timmy's babysitter when she was just 16 years old. She remembers Lodzinski, Timmy's young, single mother disappearing for days. Shortly after Lodzinski reported her son missing, Matthews was suspicious.
"I had no doubt because he was in her way," she says. "I mean, what kind of mom leaves your child and doesn't come home for the whole weekend?"
The disappearance triggered an outpouring of support for the family, and a group called Friends of Timmy formed to keep awareness of the case high. Members like Denice Hogan, who was a teacher at Timmy's school, raised money toward that goal, but says Lodzinski wanted the funds for herself.
"She wanted to go on vacation, a couple of months later," Hogan says. "But we had to explain to her that the money wasn't for her of purposes like that, and she was not that happy."
Andrew Carey became Middlesex County prosecutor last year and immediately set about reviewing case evidence and talking to witnesses. "It's a murder case," he says. "It involved a 5-year-old boy, he deserves justice."
Lodzinski had long been considered a suspect and investigators at the time said her story changed during police questioning.
Carey has not said what finally led the office to bring the murder charge. "The other counts that could have existed back in the day, the statute of limitations has run. However, justice has no time limit when it comes to a murder case," he says.
Joan Garguilo still lives across the street where Lodzinski and Timothy lived. She still remembers how her four kids used to play outside and says the shock of what happened hasn't worn off yet.
Lodzinski waived her extradition hearing and will come back to New Jersey.
Her father, who is also in Florida and didn't want to be identified, defended his daughter. "I talked to her a long time ago, everything, she claims she's innocent, which I believe," he says.
Lodzinski is currently being held in Florida without bail.