- Associated Press - Thursday, March 17, 2016

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (AP) - A former baby sitter testified Thursday that she is certain that a blanket found near the remains of a 5-year-old New Jersey boy nearly 25 years ago came from his house.

Danielle Gerding testified that she saw the blanket in Timothy Wiltsey’s home when she babysat for him. The blanket is a key piece of evidence in the prosecution’s murder case against the boy’s mother, Michelle Lodzinski.

Lodzinski’s lawyer said in his opening statement Wednesday that she was a loving mother and that there’s no evidence linking her to Timothy’s death.

Lodzinski has said he vanished while they were at a carnival in Sayreville, New Jersey, in 1991.

“She said she turned her back to get soda and he was missing,” said Gerding, who was at the carnival that day. “She appeared calm, almost shocked.”

After telling the carnival disc jockey that Timothy was wearing a red T-shirt and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sneakers, Gerding said, she spent hours searching for the boy.

“We went near the lakes, into the woods. I recall hearing geese and thinking it was Timmy crying. We didn’t find Timmy,” she said.

Lodzinski, 48, who was living in Port St. Lucie, Florida, when she was arrested, had told police she lost track of her son at the carnival, then changed her story several times, saying variously that two men or a woman and two men with a young girl abducted Timothy.

His remains were found almost a year later in a creek in Edison, about 10 miles from where he was reported missing and near where Lodzinski worked.

Though Lodzinski was considered a suspect from early on, it was that rekindled when authorities took a closer look at a reference in the case to an anonymous caller.

In a transcript of grand jury testimony that was attached to a defense filing, an investigator described how an anonymous caller said he had information about the case. The tip wound up referring to a boy named Tommy, but it spurred Middlesex County investigator Scott Crocco to revisit the case file and, eventually, to interview the niece about the blanket.

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