Tape shows day care worker admitting she threw child
The end of Melissa Calusinski's long day of police questioning arrived with the pronouncement of seven words.
According to a videotape shown Friday during a hearing in Lake County Circuit Court, Calusinski spent close to 10 hours on Jan. 16, 2009 trying to explain how 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan was fatally injured while in her care at a Lincolnshire day care center.
The detectives she was speaking to grew increasingly skeptical of Calusinski's evolving stories until she finally told them something that fit the evidence gathered about Benjamin's death two days before the interview.
"Yeah, I threw him on the floor," she said in response to detective Sean Curran's suggestion that Benjamin's skull fracture and brain trauma could have only resulted from that kind of action.
Calusinski, 24, of Carpentersville, is charged with first degree murder of the Deerfield toddler at the former Mini Subee in the Park day care center, where she worked as a teacher's assistant.
An autopsy determined the blow to his head was delivered with a force equal to a fall from the top of a one- or two-story building, police say a pathologist told them.
Curran and detective George Felinko, both assigned to the Lake County Major Crimes Task Force, questioned Calusinski after it was established she was one of the people assigned to the room Benjamin was in on the day he died.
On the tape, which has been played over several days during a defense motion to have her arrest declared illegal, Calusinski first offers a suggestion that Benjamin caused the injury to himself.
She tells the police the boy was sitting on the floor when he hurled himself backward and struck his head on the floor.
Her defense team has suggested in the past the boy had a history of such behavior and the activity contributed to his death.
After the detectives convince Calusinski the injury to Benjamin could not have been self-inflicted the way she described, Calusinski then says Benjamin hit his head on a wooded chair when she dropped him from less than a foot above the ground.
Tempers flare on the tape as the detectives again tell Calusinski her story does not match the evidence, and all parties involve begin to raise their voices.
Finally, an air of calm returns to the room and Calusinski explains she was holding Benjamin about chest-high on herself and became frustrated when other children in the room began screaming and crying.
Benjamin began to fidget and scream himself while in her arms, Calusinski said, and she was bent forward slightly at the waist when she threw him onto the tile floor.
"He laid there for a minute, then rolled over and grabbed his blankey and crawled to his chair," she tells the police. "The first time I checked on him he seemed fine, the second time I looked over his eyes were rolling up and he looked like he was going to sleep."
Other center workers rushed to the room to administer CPR and paramedics were called, but Benjamin died about 5 p.m. at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville.
Calusinski, who is held on $5 million bond, is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 24. A trial date has not been set.