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Defense counsel questions observances of missing five-year-old boy

 

By KATHY CHANG
Staff Writer

NEW BRUNSWICK — A carnival worker told police in 1991 that he was certain he put five-year-old Timothy “Timmy” Wiltsey on the two- to three-minute ride he was operating at a carnival at Kennedy Park in Sayreville.

James O’Connell was one of the witnesses whom Gerald Krovatin put on the stand during the trial of his client Michelle Lodzinski, who is accused of murdering her son Timmy 25 years ago.

On April 14 in Middlesex County Superior Court, the defense began its testimony after the state rested.

O’Connell, who said he did not know Lodzinski or Timmy, said he put the young boy on the ride. He described Timmy as around five years of age and wearing a red tank top, shorts with some design on it and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle sneakers.

“I took his [ride] tickets and asked him if he liked the Ninja Turtles,” said O’Connell.

Krovatin asked O’Connell who he recognized the boy to be.

“I recognized him as Timothy Wiltsey,” he said.

The jury watched a homemade video in evidence taken the evening of the carnival on May 25, 1991, where O’Connell told police he observed himself and the boy he believes was Timmy.

During cross-examination by the state, Assistant Prosecutor Scott LaMountain asked O’Connell if he is certain today, 25 years later, that the boy in the video is Timmy.

“I cannot positively or definitely say it was him,” he said.

LaMountain asked O’Connell if he observed a dark-haired go-go dancer put the boy on the ride or if he observed two scraggly men with a 9-inch knife put the boy on the ride.

Taken aback, O’Connell shook his said and answered, “No … I think I would have remembered that.”

He said he did not observe who put the boy on the ride or whom Timmy left with after the ride.

The jury had previously heard testimony that Lodzinski told police that a woman named Ellen, whom she recognized as a client at an Amboy Bank she used to be employed at, put Timmy on a ride as she went to get a soda.

In another separate interview with police, Lodzinski told police that Ellen was a go-go dancer and was with two scraggly-looking men and a young girl. She said Ellen and the two men had put a knife on her and threatened her if she said anything and then left with Timmy.

Krovatin, on re-direct, asked O’Connell if he believes his memory was better now or in May 1991. He said it would have been better in May 1991.

Defense testimony also included retired Sayreville Police Lt. Robert Dunworth and Jeff Larson, who was a seasonal park ranger at Holmdel Park in 1991.

Dunworth testified he led the investigation of the disappearance of Timmy. He said his investigation took him to Holmdel Park where Lodzinski told police she and Timmy started their Memorial Day weekend before making their way to the carnival.

Larson testified he was operating a gas-powered utility cart on one of the fields when he saw an orange basketball rolling and a small boy nearby.

He said he rolled the basketball back toward the boy.

Larson said he remembers the basketball because Holmdel Park does not have any basketball courts.

Dunworth testified that during the investigation police searched Lodzinski’s motor vehicle that was parked in the rear of the parking lot of Sayreville High School. He said his report indicates police observed a Nerf brand-type basketball inside the car.

During testimony, the jury learned that Lodzinski had entered the South Amboy Memorial Hospital after a day of interviews with state police and Sayreville police on June 13, 1991, because she was suffering from a mental breakdown.

During cross-examination, Dunworth said officers followed up on all the leads into Timmy’s disappearance. When asked why Sayreville police contacted the FBI for interview techniques, he said they could not verify anyone seeing Timmy at the carnival and wanted to see if they could “move” Lodzinski off her stories.

“We tried very hard,” Dunworth said of the investigation into finding witnesses who saw Timmy at the carnival, adding that everyone at the carnival was considered a suspect in the days after Timmy was reported missing.

Dunworth said as the investigation went on, the behavior of Lodzinski was concerning to law enforcement, which he said was uncharacteristic of a mother whose five-year-old son was missing.

“We followed up on every single lead,” he said, noting that Timmy’s disappearance was displayed on the scoreboard of Yankee Stadium shortly after his disappearance and was on America’s Most Wanted, from which he said received many responses.

Dunworth said they took steps to locate “Ellen,” and a “be on the lookout” notification was put out to area banks and other law enforcement agencies with negative results.

The trial is expected to last three months.

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