Defense in Lincolnshire day care case says police tricked woman

Police used a bag full of tricks to get Melissa Calusinski to tell them she killed a 16-month-old boy at a Lincolnshire day care center, one of her attorneys said Tuesday.

Calusinski, 24, of Carpentersville, is accused of first-degree murder in the Jan. 14, 2009, death of Benjamin Kingan of Deerfield.

Benjamin, one of the children for whom Calusinski served as a teacher's aide at the former Minee Subee in the Park day care center, died of a skull fracture inflicted by what a pathologist said was force equal to a fall from a two-story building.

Detectives from the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force questioned Calusinski over a 10-hour period two days after Benjamin's death in an interview room equipped with a videotape recorder. One of the detectives who questioned Calusinski, Round Lake Park Police Chief George Filenko, testified Tuesday during a hearing on a defense motion to bar her confession from being used against her.

On the videotape, Calusinski is seen progressing through a number of stories about her time with Benjamin on the day of his death.

At first, she tells the detectives she had no idea how Benjamin came to be injured, then suggested he might have been hurt when she dropped him a few inches and he struck his head on the back of a wooden chair. Finally, Calusinski is shown saying that she hurled Benjamin to the floor as she was holding him in the area of her chest when she became frustrated with other children in the room.

Defense attorney Paul DeLuca asked Filenko a series of questions about what the detective said to Calusinski as the interview progressed.

Filenko admitted the tape was accurate when it showed him telling Calusinski he believed she was “a good person” and that he and the other detective doing the questioning “were not here to judge her and not here to condemn her.”

Filenko also said it was true that his partner in the questioning, Highland Park Detective Sean Curran, left the interview room frequently to check with other detectives interviewing other employees of the day care center.

When DeLuca asked Filenko if Curran was doing so in order to verify or disprove information Calusinski was giving them, Filenko responded “Yes, I believe he was doing that.”

Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Scheller frequently objected to DeLuca's questions, and DeLuca responded he was attempting to establish a pattern of behavior on the part of the police.

“I have alleged that they (police) suggested things to her and that she just spouted it back to them,” DeLuca told Circuit Judge Daniel Shanes. “I am saying that they took advantage of her.”

Prosecutors said they intend to call Curran to the stand on Wednesday.

If convicted, Calusinski faces a possible sentence of life in prison.