The case of former day care worker Melissa Calusinski and the death of a toddler in her care will be reexamined tonight in a new episode of 48 Hours on CBS. The death of Benjamin Kingan, a 16-month-old toddler, made headlines in 2009. It was then that police say that the day care worker threw the baby down to the floor, causing his death. She was convicted and is now serving a 31-year sentence in an Illinois prison.
But since Melissa Calusiniki’s conviction, new evidence has come to light suggesting that she was not the person responsible for little Benjamin Kingan’ death, and that the baby actually died due to an earlier, unseen injury to his brain. The problem is that Calusinski confessed to the killing.
In January 2009, police responded to a call at the Minee Subee Daycare Center in Lincolnshire, Illinois, where they found the body of an unresponsive toddler sitting in his favorite chair. The baby was identified as Benjamin Kingan. His twin sister was also present at the scene.
Benjamin Kingan was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The original autopsy stated that the baby died from a brain injury. Information found in the autopsy report also indicated that the injury was recent and that the last person in his care was most likely the responsible person. That person was 25-year old Melissa Calusinksi of Carpentersville. Police questioned her for 9 hours until she finally confessed to the killing.
She was held on a $5 million bail. At trial, prosecutors alleged that Melissa Calusinksi became so angry with the child that she threw him to the floor, resulting in his death. Jurors listened to the videotaped confession where she admitted that she had done it. That admission came about after six hours of brutal interrogation. Before she finally made the confession, she told cops 70 times that she had nothing to do with hurting the baby.
Friends and family members say there was no way Melissa Calusinksi could be capable of harming anyone, much less a baby. She adored children and had a history with the parents of being a loving day care worker. But the obvious question was: Why did she confess if she was not guilty? Her defense attorneys believed that she was eager to go home and made the confession out of fear. A not guilty verdict had been expected in the case. However, Melissa Calusinksi was found guilty and sentenced to 31 years in prison.
She appealed her conviction years later, but the Illinois Supreme Court upheld the prior conviction. In a strange twist, the original owner of the Mine Subee Day Care center was arrested for telling her employees to lie about how many people were in the room at the time of the toddler’s death. She died of heart failure before her case went to trial. The Minee Subee Day Care was shut down by the state. After its closing, a new center was reopened by new owners, according to the Chicago Tribune.
It sounds strange, but many people confess to crimes that they have not committed. One documented case involves the story of a teenage boy who confessed to murdering his female neighbor and classmate at a teen slumber party. In that case, the police interviewed the boy for several grueling hours without an attorney or his parents present. He eventually confessed to killing the girl and leaving her body in a shed behind the house. He was originally arrested for the crime but was found innocent at trial. Lifetime later made a movie about the case in the 1990s.
Erian Moriarty will go over the Melissa Calusinski-Benjamin Kingan case tonight at 9 p.m. Central on CBS’ 48 Hours. Here is a tease for the episode Blaming Melissa.
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