Former day care worker testifies boss told her to lie to police
A former teachers aide at the Minee Subee in the Park day care center testified Friday that the center's owner told her to lie to police following the death of a child at the facility.
Nancy Kallinger also said she saw Benjamin Kingan throw himself backward and strike his head on the floor at least once on the day he died, and possibly more than once.
Kallinger, of Deerfield, testified on the third day of the first-degree murder trial of Melissa Calusinski in Lake County Circuit Court.
Two days after Benjamin's Jan. 14, 2009, death, Calusinski, 25, of Carpentersville, was recorded twice telling police she threw the 16-month-old toddler to the floor when she became upset with him and other children in the room.
The officer who took the second confession, Lincolnshire Det. Adam Hyde, has also testified he heard Calusinski tell her father during a phone call "Daddy, it's all my fault. I threw him to the ground with a full-strength throw."
Kallinger testified Friday she was in and out of the room where Calusinski and other center employees cared for Benjamin and seven other children on the day of the tragedy.
She said she had left the room to wash the children's lunch dishes during the time police believe Benjamin suffered his fatal injury, and Calusinski was alone in the room with the children.
Such a scenario would have violated state regulations that require there be at least one adult present for every four children in a licensed day care operation.
After it became known Benjamin had died, Kallinger said, she was one of the center employees Lincolnshire police asked to do a handwritten statement detailing what they knew about what had happened to the toddler.
Kallinger said the facility's owner, Judith Katz of Arlington Heights, took her aside and showed her a statement to police that Katz said she wanted Kallinger to use as a template for her own statement.
The statement Katz had prepared, Kallinger said, included Kallinger placing herself in the room with Calusinski at the time Benjamin was hurt, in keeping with the state regulations.
Although Kallinger said she filled out her statement according to Katz's instructions, she testified Friday she "did not feel right about it" and later got the statement back from Katz and threw it in the garbage.
Lincolnshire police officer Scott Holtz testified earlier in the trial he had found a police statement form with Kallinger's name on it in a garbage can, and had taken it into evidence.
In March 2009, Katz was charged with obstruction of justice after Kallinger and other center employees told police Katz ordered them to make false statements to police.
Katz has pleaded not guilty to the charge and is scheduled to appear in court Nov. 21.
Kallinger also testified she saw Benjamin throw himself backward while in a seated position and strike the back of his head on the floor on the day he died.
She said Benjamin and other children she had cared for at the center would do so when they were upset.
Kallinger said Benjamin may have deliberately struck his head on the floor a second time on Jan. 14, 2009, but conceded the second incident may have happened on different day.
Calusinski's attorneys claim two physicians will testify later in the trial that Benjamin aggravated pre-existing head injuries by hitting his head on the ground and those injuries caused the skull fracture that killed him.
If convicted, Calusinski faces up to life in prison.