Although NBC’s ‘Dateline’ has been providing us with in-depth details of real-life cases ever since its premiere in 1992, the undeniable fact is that its focus on the human aspect truly sets it apart in the genre. Thus, its season 30 episode 24, aptly entitled ‘The Blue Blanket Mystery,’ examining the baffling 1991 disappearance and death of 5-year-old Timothy Wiltsey, is no different. So now, if you wish to learn more about the same, including the victim’s background as well as the (sadly) connected police investigations and legal proceedings, we’ve got you covered.
How Did Timothy Wiltsey Die?
Born on August 6, 1985, Timothy “Timmy” Wiltsey reportedly did not have stable parental figures because while his father wasn’t even in the picture, his mother worked hard to provide for them. The latter actually considered herself a “weekend mom,” especially as she relied upon friends, family, and babysitters to look after her son while pursuing different personal and professional ventures. However, Timothy was still a good, kind, and loving young child, which is just one of the several reasons why his sudden vanishing left the entire state of New Jersey shocked to its very core.
On May 25, 1991, as per Timothy’s mother, Michelle Lodzinski, the duo spent the day together playing in a park and visiting the local petting zoo before making their way to a carnival in Sayreville. They were seemingly celebrating the upcoming end of the school year, only for things to change when she left the 5-year-old alone in a ride line to go buy a soda, never to see or hear from him alive again. Michelle initially conceded she lost sight of her son for a few moments, but she also added that she contacted the police almost as soon as she realized they’d been separated.
The massive South Amboy Elks Club carnival was immediately shut down in favor of an extensive search for Timothy, yet there were no signs of him even being in the area. In fact, despite the officials’ best efforts, only his skeletal remains were recovered almost 11 months later (on April 23, 1992), and that too from a marshland near Edison. The medical examiners could not determine the time, cause, or location of the youngster’s death owing to advanced decomposition, but they positively ruled it a homicide. That’s essentially because of the heinous way he’d been found.
Who Killed Timothy Wiltsey?
Timothy Wiltsey (or rather his bones) was located not only surrounded by pieces of his clothing, a pillowcase, and a blanket but also near Michelle Lodzinski’s former workplace. The truth is that the changes in her account of the incident, combined with her strange behavior, had already made her the lead suspect, so this new element just reiterated the speculations. After all, even though she was emotional about losing her son at first, her demeanor took a drastic turn within days, and she told investigators that he had been kidnaped from the fair by two or three people.
In early June 1991, Michelle had claimed a couple of men intimidated her into silence with a knife after snatching Timothy, yet she recanted the entire tale the same evening. Upon being interviewed the following day, she insisted she had actually left her son with a woman she sort of knew and two men before going to buy soda, who ended up abducting him. She did make modifications to this narrative as well as time passed, but its fundamental essence remained the same, even if no evidence has ever come to light in its support.
The fact that Michelle faked her own kidnapping in 1994 in a supposed attempt to drive suspicion away from her and later stole a laptop from a former employer didn’t help her situation either. Despite this, since there was no physical evidence tying her to Timothy’s death, she wasn’t charged with the crime until a renewed investigation gave way to further conjecture. Records prove she was never abusive, but some argued that the then early-20-year-old considered her son “a burden” because of the way he affected her life, driving her to kill him. A witness also revealed that the blanket near Timothy’s body was from his mother’s home.
Therefore, more than two decades later, on August 6, 2014, Michelle was arrested in Florida for Timothy’s first-degree murder. Her 2016 trial eventually resulted in a guilty verdict and a sentence of 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole. However, following a years-long battle on the grounds of insufficient evidence, including circumstantial, her appeal was heard by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2021, which vacated her conviction. Hence, unfortunately, to this day, no one really knows how 5-year-old Timothy Wiltsey died or who killed him.
Read More: Where is Michelle Lodzinski Now?