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posted: 3/6/2010 12:01 AM

Parents settle in son's Lincolnshire day-care death

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  • Judith Katz

      Judith Katz

 
 

Amy Kingan of Deerfield said she has a message to all parents who send their children to day-care centers.

"Never let your guard down," said Kingan, the mother of a toddler who authorities said was killed by an employee at a Lincolnshire day-care center.

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Kingan and her husband, Andrew, will receive a $2 million settlement from the now closed Minee-Subee in the Park. The settlement came before a lawsuit was filed in what was termed a wrongful-death case.

Benjamin Kingan was 16 months old when he died from injuries suffered at Minee-Subee on Jan. 14, 2009. Teacher's assistant Melissa Calusinski, 22, of Carpentersville was charged with first-degree murder, accused of throwing Benjamin to the floor because she was upset. She is in Lake County jail awaiting trial.

In addition, Minee-Subee owner Judith Katz, 64, of the 2600 block of North Pine Avenue in Arlington Heights, was charged with obstruction of justice, for lying to police investigating the boy's death, authorities said.

Lawyer Francis Patrick Murphy's voice cracked when he described at his downtown Chicago office Friday Benjamin's fatal injuries. The Kingans attended the news conference and were mostly stoical, but they teared up when Murphy addressed their son's death.

Andrew Kingan said the $2 million is for the couple's other children so they have opportunities Benjamin never will receive. Amy Kingan said her son's death has led her to push for stronger industry oversight in legislation called "Stop Abuse at Day-Cares."

"We'd give everything we have to have (Benjamin) back. We're just looking for closure ... and to do something so that this doesn't happen to another family," said Amy Kingan, who plans to testify before state lawmakers in Springfield.

Payment of the $2 million will come from the Minee-Subee's insurance coverage, the Kingan family's lawyers said. The case was settled Feb. 24.

Murphy contended Minee-Subee, on the day of Benjamin's death, didn't follow Illinois law requiring two day-care workers in a toddler room at all times when more than five are in a class. More than five toddlers were present when the incident occurred, he said.

The lawyer said Minee-Subee followed the law when the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services made scheduled inspections. He said that was not the case in day-to-day operations.

Murphy said the settlement should be "a call to all day-care operators not to allow another Ben Kingan to die."

Authorities said some toddlers began fussing when Calusinski grabbed Benjamin from his high chair and threw him to the ground, causing a skull fracture when he landed on his head. Benjamin then "crawled over to his bouncy chair and cuddled up with his blanket," according to the Kingan family's attorneys.

Benjamin's twin sister, Emily, was seated next him when Calusinski removed him from his chair, the lawyers said. Benjamin died at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville.

"Ben was a very, very bright little boy. ... He was very close to his sister, Emily," Andrew Kingan said. "Every morning when they'd wake up, they'd greet each other and talk."

Minee-Subee attorney Jack Carriglio was reported to be traveling and unavailable for comment Friday.

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