NEW BRUNSWICK - An Arizona man believes a former jail cellmate may have killed 5-year-old Timothy Wiltsey in 1991.
Testifying before jurors Wednesday in the Michelle Lodzinski murder trial, Damien Dowdle, 42, a convicted bank robber, said Bernard Joseph McShane told him in 1991 that he killed a little boy at a park.
“He told me he was bored,” Dowdle said. “He went to a park and there was a big event nearby. A little boy went off into the woods. He (McShane) went into the woods and attempted to molest the kid and pulled down his pants. The kid started screaming and he (McShane) was afraid the screams would draw adults and he strangled him to stop him from screaming and he ended up killing the kid.”
“Did you believe him?” asked Gerald Krovatin, Lodzinski’s attorney.
“Absolutely,” Dowdle said.
Dowdle is a key defense witness in the trial. Lodzinski, 48, a former South Amboy resident, is accused of killing her son, Timothy, who allegedly disappeared from a carnival at a park in Sayreville on May 25,1991. The kindergarten student’s partial skeletal remains were found almost a year later in April 1992 in a creek in Raritan Center, Edison, near a building where Lodzinski once worked.
Dowdle said he moved in with McShane when he was a teenager in Arizona. On Nov. 10, 1990, Dowdle and McShane robbed a video rental store. Six days later, Dowdle and a two other juveniles robbed a fast-food restaurant and gas station, and Dowdle was arrested that night.
He spent 33 days in a juvenile facility before being moved to an adult correctional facility, where police questioned him about the video store robbery.
During that time, he was in contact with McShane and the two made plans to leave Arizona.
Once Dowdle was released on bail, the two men met at a convenience store, with police seeking McShane in connection with the video store robbery.
“At that moment, we were on the run,” Dowdle said.
The men traveled from Arizona to Texas, where they later split up after McShane allegedly tried to sexually assault Dowdle in a motel bed one night. Dowdle stayed with friends for a while before his mother and a counselor convinced him to return to Arizona and turn himself in, which he did in January 1991.
He believed McShane might be heading to the East Coast when they parted.
Dowdle was in jail from 1991 to 1996. But in late July or August 1991, Dowdle and McShane ended up in the same Arizona jail. The two talked during recreation time and it was then that Dowdle learned McShane had headed East after they split and allegedly killed a boy near a place called “Atlanta City,” which was apparently near casinos and a waterfront.
“I had never heard of ‘Atlanta City,'” Dowdle said.
Dowdle testified he told his attorney and police what McShane said and asked for no deals in connection with his case. Dowdle hoped what McShane told him about the boy wasn’t true, but the thought weighed on his mind.
A cellmate suggested that McShane may have been referring to Atlantic City in New Jersey rather than a city in Georgia. Dowdle told his attorney and police about the change in location, but no information was found about the death of a little boy.
Dowdle spent 18 more years in prison in connection with three armed bank robberies. When he was released in March 2015, he did some computer research and found similarities between McShane’s story to the Wiltsey case.
“The similarities seemed striking,” said Dowdle, who contacted Krovatin last fall. “I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to talk to jurors. I felt it was the right thing to do in case it had relevance.”
During cross examination Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Christie Bevacqua asked Dowdle if McShane ever said Atlantic City.
“I think he did,” Dowdle said.
“You’re guessing,” Bevacqua said.
Dowdle testified against McShane in connection with the video store robbery and has researched him on the internet but has not talked to McShane since 1991.
“Are you trying to catch him here?” Bevacqua asked.
“No,” Dowdle answered.
She asked why he didn’t come to prosecutors about his concerns about McShane’s alleged connection to the Wiltsey case.
“The state had dropped the ball once. I didn’t trust you wouldn’t drop it again,” he said.
When Dowdle met with representatives from the Prosecutor’s Office and Sayreville police last November, they told him McShane had been in Georgia and Florida while on the run.
“They told me they could not place him in New Jersey,” Dowdle said.
Dowdle said McShane never indicated he drove anywhere to dispose of the boy’s body. Dowdle had the impression McShane placed the body nearby.
“He (McShane) didn’t say he went to Michelle Lodzinski’s home to get a blanket?” Bevacqua asked.
“I never heard about the blanket until later,” Dowdle said.
Michael Lynch, 46, of Old Bridge, the final witness of the day, testified that the day after the carnival, he saw two men run into an apartment complex near the park, come out carrying a 4-foot-long object rolled up, throw it in the trunk of the car and drive off without the vehicle’s headlights on.
“It definitely seemed suspicious,” Lynch said.
The trial resumes Thursday.
Staff Writer Suzanne Russell: 732-565-7335; [email protected]
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