Officer: Suspect said toddler was fine on day he died

Melissa Calusinski said there was nothing unusual about Benjamin Kingan's behavior on the day the 16-month-old toddler fell ill at the Lincolnshire day care center where Calusinski worked, a police officer testified Thursday.

Calusinski, 25, of Carpentersville, is on trial for first-degree murder in Benjamin's death, and police said Calusinski confessed to throwing the child to the ground when she became upset with him.

Lincolnshire police officer Scott Holst said he arrived at the Minee Subee in the Park center about one minute after a 911 call reported Benjamin was unconscious and not breathing.

Holst said he was assigned to interview several center employees, including Melissa Calusinski, as part of the early stages of the investigation.

He said Calusinski told him Benjamin had been fine all day and that after she cleaned him up after the children had eaten their afternoon snacks, the toddler had taken his blanket and went to his favorite chair in the room.

She made no mention of Benjamin being injured in any way during the day, Holst said.

In videotaped statements to police during an extended interview two days after Benjamin's Jan. 14, 2009 death, Calusinski is seen explaining how she threw the child to the floor when she became upset with him and other children in the room.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney Paul DeLuca, Holst said Calusinski also told him Benjamin had become “violently ill” at the center two days before his death and vomited “profusely.”

Calusinski's defense team argues that Benjamin died because he aggravated existing head injuries by repeatedly pounding the back of his head on the floor.

They claim an autopsy performed after Benjamin's death failed to detect the previous injuries, and police coerced Calusinski's confession because they believed the child had to have been murdered.

Also on Thursday, Dr. Adriana Orozco testified she was on duty in the emergency room when Benjamin arrived in very grave condition.

She said the infant was unconscious and not breathing, and that multiple efforts to resuscitate him failed.

Orozco said that in her experience as a pediatric emergency room doctor, vomiting was one of the “significant” indications of head trauma in infants.

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Melissa Calusinski
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