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No. 7 of 2012: Prison term for toddler’s death

MelissCalusinski arrested for murder BenjamKingan 16 months. Calusinski threw Kingan tot he ground while under her care daycare Lincolnshire. |

Melissa Calusinski arrested for the murder of Benjamin Kingan, 16 months. Calusinski threw Kingan tot he ground while under her care at a daycare in Lincolnshire. | Illinois Department of Corrections

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A Carpentersville woman was sentenced to 31 years in prison in 2012 for murdering a 16-month-old toddler. Deerfield toddler Benjamin Kingan died of head trauma incurred while he was being cared for at the now-closed Lincolnshire Minee Subee day care on Jan. 14, 2009.

A Lake County jury deliberated less than seven hours to convict Melissa Calusinski, 26, of first-degree murder in November 2011. Circuit Judge Daniel Shanes sentenced her to 31 years in prison in February of this year.

Calusinski admitted to throwing the toddler to the floor when she was employed to take care of him at the day care center in a recorded interview with police.

“It got to a point where I got frustrated. I took it out on him and I shouldn’t have,” Calusinski said in the Jan. 16, 2009 interview. “I put him down in a way I shouldn’t have.”

Her attorneys argued at her trial that police coerced the confession after hours of questioning. Calusinski repeated that claim at her sentencing hearing in February. She professed her innocence at her sentencing.

Calusinski was back in Lake County court in March. Her attorneys unsuccessfully sought a new trial for her on the grounds that one of the medical experts who testified during the trial had lied about his qualifications.

The request was denied because Shanes said he did not see how this would have biased the jury. Her attorneys said they would appeal her case.

March was the last month Calusinski’s case was in Lake County. She is currently in custody at Dwight Correctional Center with a projected discharge date of Dec. 30, 2042, according to the Illinois Department of Corrections.

The former owner of the Lincolnshire day care center was due for trial earlier this year on obstruction of justice charges. Police alleged that Judith Katz had instructed her employees to lie to police about what happened the day Benjamin was killed. Calusinski had said she was left alone with eight young children the day the toddler died for a period of time longer than was allowed by state regulations, officials said.

However, Katz of Arlington Heights passed away in April from heart failure, caused from complications from cervical cancer. Katz, 67, was diagnosed with cancer shortly after she was indicted in 2009.

The charges were dropped against Katz after her attorney presented her death certificate to the court.

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