Woman charged in toddler's death changed story, detective says

A detective who interviewed Melissa Calusinski just hours after Benjamin Kingan died of a head injury testified Thursday Calusinski's body language was "deceptive" as she answered his questions.

Calusinski, 23, of Carpentersville, faces up to life in prison if convicted of killing the 16-month-old toddler at a former Lincolnshire day care center.

At a hearing of a defense motion to suppress Calusinski's confession to the crime, Lincolnshire Det. Adam Hyde said he was the first police officer to talk to Calusinski on the day of Benjamin's death on Jan. 14, 2009.

Hyde said Calusinski told him she was in a room at the Minee Subee in the Park day care center, which has since closed, with two other teacher's assistants, Benjamin and seven other children.

Benjamin was walking toward his "bouncy chair" where he usually napped after afternoon snacks, Hyde said Calusinski told him, and she did not want him to fall asleep at that time.

"She said he was looking lethargic so she called to him three times - Benjamin, Benjamin, Benjamin," Hyde said. "She went over to him and saw blood foaming from his mouth and nose."

The other adults in the room began performing CPR on Benjamin while she called for help, Hyde said Calusinski told him before he interrupted her.

"I told her her body language indicated she was being deceptive and that I wanted to know why she was lying," Hyde said. "She was looking away from me as she answered and shifting uncomfortably in her chair."

Calusinski then told him that the other two adults were not in the room with her when she noticed Benjamin was injured, Hyde said, but it would not be until the morning of Jan. 16 that police said she ultimately confessed.

At a court hearing after she was charged with killing Benjamin, police said Calusinski told them she grew frustrated with the rowdiness of other children to the room and threw Benjamin to the ground as she was carrying him.

Hyde testified Thursday that there was no outward sign of severe abuse to Benjamin on the day that he died, but that he did notice a quarter-size bruise on the toddler's forehead.

But the physician who performed the autopsy on Benjamin on Jan. 15 painted an entirely different picture of the last moments of his life, Hyde said.

"He said that Benjamin had suffered severe blunt trauma, equal to the force of a one- or two-story fall," Hyde said. "The loss of blood indicated he would have died within 30 minutes of being injured."

The physician said that Benjamin could not have suffered the injury in a fall from a changing table at the center or by striking his head on the wooden storage area in the toddler room, Hyde said.

Rather, the physician said Benjamin's injury was more likely to have been caused by someone "swinging him into a wall," Hyde said.

Calusinski's attorneys claim that police arrested their client without cause to do so and that any statements she made to them should be barred from being used against her.

The hearing on the motion is expected to continue next week, and a trial date for the case has not yet been set.