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N.J. Supreme Court Vacates Michelle Lodzinksi's Murder Conviction In 1991 Killing Of 5-Year-Old Son Timothy Wiltsey

TRENTON, NJ. (CBSNewYork) -- Many are calling it a stunning decision.

The New Jersey Supreme Court has overturned the verdict in an infamous murder case dating back to 1991, the killing of 5-year-old Timothy Wiltsey.

After five years in prison, his mother, 54-year-old Michelle Lodzinski, was set free from a facility in Hunterdon County on Tuesday night, no longer a convicted murderer.

"I'm relieved, just grateful for all the people that helped me and that stood by my side to get me home to see my family and friends. I want to go home and just see my kids," Lodzinski said.

The state's high court has tossed out Lodzinski's 2016 conviction for killing her son.

Timothy Wiltsey
Timothy Wiltsey, 5, was found dead in 1992, several months after disappearing from a New Jersey carnival. His mother, Michelle Lodzinski, 47, was arrested and charged with his death on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 2014. (Credit: CBS 2)

Arline Annette told CBS2's Tony Aiello the decision won't sit well with many in Middlesex County.

"Not well at all. People remember that case. It was very, very sad, and I think they were relieved when they finally arrested her and convicted her," Annette said.

Lodzinski was a struggling single mom in 1991 when she claimed Timmy disappeared from a park in Sayreville, sparking a massive manhunt.

From the very beginning, Lodzinski was the primary person of interest in the case. Investigators said she never told a consistent narrative, and kept changing vital details about the circumstances of Timmy's disappearance.

His body was found in 1992, but little forensic evidence tied Lodzinski to the crime.

Mostly circumstantial evidence led to her 2014 arrest and 2016 first-degree murder conviction.

But a lack of evidence as to her intent convinced four of the seven high court judges to toss the conviction, writing, "No reasonable jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that Lodzinski purposefully or knowingly caused Timmy's death."

"Purposeful, negligent, accidental, reckless, there are a variety of standards that come into play when convicting somebody for homicide and there was no proof as to any one of those characterizations," legal expert John Wisniewski said..

Lodzinski's lawyer said she burst into tears of relief when told her conviction was set aside.

She is expected to return to Florida, where she had restarted her life and gave birth to two more sons.

The three judges who voted to uphold the conviction wrote the decision will "undermine the jury's role at the heart of our criminal justice system."

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