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updated: 11/7/2011 7:15 PM

Toddler's head injury was "intense and fresh": expert

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  • Melissa Calusinski of Carpentersville is on trial for the murder of 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan at a Lincolnshire day care center.

      Melissa Calusinski of Carpentersville is on trial for the murder of 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan at a Lincolnshire day care center.


Benjamin Kingan died from a head injury inflicted with great force consistent with the toddler being thrown to the floor, a medical expert testified Monday.

Testifying for the prosecution in the fourth day of the Melissa Calusinski murder trial, Dr. Jordan Greenbaum rejected the defense contention the toddler aggravated an existing injury by banging his own head on the floor.

Calusinski, 25, of Carpentersville, is accused of killing the boy on Jan. 14, 2009, while she worked at the former Minee Subee in the Park day care center in Lincolnshire.

Police say Calusinski threw Benjamin to the floor when she became frustrated with him and the seven other children in the room where she served as a teacher's aide.

Her attorneys say Benjamin aggravated an existing head injury through his habit of throwing himself backward from a sitting position and hitting his head on the floor behind him.

But Greenbaum, the medical director of Children's Hospital in Atlanta and a former assistant medical director in Milwaukee County, Wis., said her review of the documentation regarding Benjamin's death led her to a far different conclusion.

Greenbaum told the eight women and four men on the jury that her study of the autopsy report and photographs indicated the bleeding in Benjamin's head was intense and fresh.

The autopsy concluded Benjamin died from a 4-inch-by-4-inch skull fracture inflicted with the same force as a fall from a one- or two-story building.

There was no evidence of an older injury, Greenbaum said, which would have been indicated by discoloration of the blood found inside the toddler's skull.

She also said the skull fracture and damage to the membranes around the brain were "recent," dating back no more than a few days.

The statements of witnesses who said Benjamin was acting normally before becoming unconscious at the center ran counter to any argument Benjamin injured himself by falling backward, Greenbaum said.

"Throwback is not possible (as the cause of death) because those forces, trivial forces, could not cause these injuries," Greenbaum said. "He couldn't have been eating, playing, laughing and being a toddler if he had suffered an injury this severe."

In other testimony Monday, a Lincolnshire police officer said Calusinski told him she threw Benjamin to the ground and that he overheard her make a similar statement to her father.

Detective Adam Hyde said Calusinski told him, after she had confessed to other detectives from the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, that she hurled the toddler to the floor as she was holding him near her chest.

After her discussion with Hyde that was video and audio recorded, Calusinski is seen on video alone making a telephone call to her father.

Hyde testified Monday that Calusinski said she threw Benjamin to the floor "with a full-force throw" and she is seen on the video repeatedly making a throwing gesture with her right arm.

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