NEW JERSEY — For more than two decades, New Jersey investigators had not been able to solve the homicide of 5-year-old Timothy Wiltsey.
His mother, Michelle Lodzinski, reported the boy missing on May 25, 1991, telling police that he disappeared at a carnival.
On Wednesday, 23 years after Timmy vanished, Lodzinski was arrested in Florida on a murder charge in connection with his death.
His disappearance shook the South Amboy, New Jersey, community where his family lived. Dozens of volunteers searched nearby fields and marshes for clues, according to CNN affiliate WCBS.
The case gained national attention after missing posters for the boy were distributed to thousands of rail employees in 13 states, WCBS reported. Timmy’s picture was even displayed on a giant screen at Yankee Stadium.
Less than a year after he was reported missing, Timmy’s partial remains were found in a remote section of an industrial park in nearby Edison, New Jersey.
In the end, a routine cold-case review sparked a new investigation into the death, according to prosecutors in Middlesex County.
The findings were presented to a grand jury, according to a statement from the prosecutor’s office.
The grand jury charged that Lodzinski “did purposely or knowingly kill Timothy Wiltsey, or did purposely or knowingly inflict serious bodily injury upon Timothy Wiltsey, resulting in his death,” according to the prosecutor’s office.
Lodzinski was considered a suspect over the years but she was never charged because of a lack of evidence, according to The Star-Ledger newspaper.
Days after she reported her son missing, Lodzinski told detectives that two men, one with a knife, kidnapped Timmy, the newspaper reported.
She returned later that day and told authorities she had made up the story of the abduction. The following day, she gave police another account, according to the newspaper.
In 1994, in another bizarre scenario, Lodzinski claimed that she was kidnapped and driven to Detroit by FBI agents. She later admitted making that story up as well, according to The Star-Ledger.
Speaking about the woman’s fake kidnapping story, Alan Rockoff, the Middlesex County Prosecutor at the time of Timmy’s disappearance, told the newspaper, “It confirmed to me what we already knew — she was the suspect.”
Lodzinski was arrested Wednesday evening in Port St. Lucie, Florida, and charged with murder, the prosecutor’s office said. Her bail was set at $2 million and she was awaiting an extradition hearing Thursday.