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updated: 11/17/2011 5:17 PM

Guilty verdict not end of legal matters surrounding day care murder

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  • Judith Katz

      Judith Katz

  • Melissa Calusinski

      Melissa Calusinski

 
 

This week's conviction of Melissa Calusinski on murder charges does not put an end to the legal matters stemming from the 2009 death of a toddler at a former Lincolnshire day care center.

Judith Katz, who owned the Minee Subee in the Park center in Lincolnshire where 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan died, still faces an obstruction of justice charge. Authorities say she encouraged employees to mislead investigators in the hours after the toddler's death.

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During Calusinski's trial, former Minee Subee staffer Nancy Kallinger testified that Katz told her to lie to police as the investigation of the Jan. 14, 2009 death was beginning.

Lincolnshire police had asked members of the center's staff to prepare handwritten statements about what they observed that day. Kallinger testified that Katz, 64, of Arlington Heights, gave her a statement she had prepared and urged Kallinger to copy the information as her own.

When authorities charged Katz in March 2009, they said she was instructing employees to tell police there was another staff member with Calusinski in the room where Benjamin died.

The state Department of Children and Family Services requires that day care centers have a minimum of one staff member present for every four children in a room. Calusinski told police she was alone in the room with Benjamin and seven other children when she hurled the boy to the ground, causing his fatal head injury.

Kallinger testified she originally did as Katz instructed her, but later changed her mind about lying to police and retrieved her handwritten statement from Katz.

The case against Katz has been on hold pending the outcome of Calusinski's trial, which ended when a jury found her guilty Wednesday night. Katz is scheduled to appear in court on the felony obstructing charge Tuesday.

In March 2010, Minee Subee in the Park, Inc., agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by Benjamin's parents for $2 million.

The center was closed by DCFS shortly after Benjamin's death, and was reopened six months later under new management.

If convicted of obstruction of justice, Katz could be sentenced to up to three years in prison but also would be eligible for probation.

Calusinski, 25, of Carpentersville, will be facing up to life in prison when she is sentenced sometime next year.

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