The former owner of a Lincolnshire day care center where a toddler was killed in 2009 died Sunday, just a day before she was set to stand trial on obstruction of justice charges.
Judith Katz, 67, was accused of instructing employees to lie about how many adults were in the room when 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan was thrown to the ground by an employee. The employee, Melissa Calusinski, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the case and was sentenced to 31 years in prison.
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Katz, who lived in Arlington Heights, appeared in court Friday in a wheelchair and had been undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer.
A Cook County medical Examiner's office spokesman confirmed Katz's death late Sunday, but did not have any information on the cause.
Circuit Judge John Phillips denied a motion to dismiss the charges against Katz last week, and her bench trial was scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m. at the Lake County Courthouse.
A former teacher's aide at Minee Subee in the Park day care center testified during Calusinski's murder trial that Katz asked her to falsify a police statement during the investigation.
Staffer Nancy Kallinger testified that Katz had prepared a statement for her to use as a template that placed her in the room with Calusinski when the boy suffered a fatal head injury.
State regulations require that day care centers have a minimum of one staff member present for every four children in a room. Calusinski was alone in the room with Benjamin and seven other children when she threw him to the floor after she became upset on Jan. 14, 2009.
Last month Phillips agreed to amend the charges against Katz to remove the accusation that she made false statements "to the police." Prosectors argued that her actions intended to mislead police.
"It couldn't be cleared as to when she stated the information and what her intent was," said Assistant State's Attorney Christen Bishop.
Kallinger testified that she originally provided Katz with a handwritten statement that matched the falsified account, but changed her mind about lying to police and retrieved it from her.
If convicted of the class 4 felony, Katz could have faced between one and three years in prison.
Minee Subee in the Park, Inc., the day care center, agreed to settle a lawsuit filed by Benjamin's parents for $2 million in March 2010.