Jurors hear Calusinski's confession to police in toddler's death
Jan. 16, 2009 was a day of transition for Melissa Calusinski.
Then 22, the Carpentersville woman spent the bulk of the day being questioned by police about the death of 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan in the Lincolnshire day care classroom where Calusinski worked as a teacher's aide.
Beginning around 10 a.m., Calusinski moved from denying knowing anything about what happened to the boy while presenting various scenarios that had her uninvolved in his injury, to trying to convince the detectives she had accidentally dropped Benjamin while trying to put him in a wooden chair.
As the videotape of the questioning session shown for the eight women and four men on the jury for Calusinski's Lake County murder trial neared its end Thursday, Calusinski's story changed one last time.
"What we think happened here is that all the other babies were crying," Det. Sean Curran tells Calusinski. "Ben started acting up and you threw him to the floor."
Calusinski's facial expression does not change as she gives up her resistance.
"Yeah, it's true, I threw him on the floor," she tells Curran. "He got up, put his binky in his mouth, crawled over and got his blanket and crawled to his chair."
Thirty minutes later, Benjamin was dead and the doctor who performed the autopsy told police the boy suffered a skull fracture inflicted with a force equal to that of a fall from a two-story building.
Calusinski's lawyers claim that diagnosis was faulty because it ignored a pre-existing serious head injury, and the flawed information convinced police that murder was the only answer to Benjamin's death.
After the video ended, defense attorney Daniel Cummings cross-examined the other detective who questioned his client, Round Lake Park Police Chief George Filenko. Filenko said the autopsy result was the only information he and Curran had about Benjamin's health, and they were unaware if there were any pre-existing problems.
Cummings, who told the jurors in his opening statement that the questions police posed to his client were designed to have her create the story police wanted to hear, reviewed a checklist of comforts Calusinski did not have while with the police.
"She was never let out of that room to stretch her legs, was she," he asked Filenko. "She never made a phone call, had anything to eat or went to the bathroom, did she?"
To each question, Filenko said she did not.
Cummings pointed to points in a transcript of the interview where harsh accusations were made, and Filenko said he told Calusinski at one point "That if this was an accident, you would have come clean by now."
Once Calusinski says she threw Benjamin to the floor, the tape shows the detectives asking some clarification questions before they both stand and leave the room.
Calusinski sits silently by herself in a plastic chair in the corner of the room for a short while, then begins to speak.
"Oh, I feel so relieved; thank you," she says, looking up. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."
If convicted, Calusinski faces up to life in prison.