Coroner: X-Rays Show Toddler's Daycare Death May Not Have Been Worker's Fault

Daycare worker Melissa Calusinski was sentenced to 31 years in prison in 2012 for allegedly causing the infant's death

A coroner has unearthed new evidence in the death of a toddler at a suburban daycare that could overturn the conviction of daycare worker Melissa Calusinski, who was charged with the boy's death in 2012.

Sixteen-month-old Benjamin Kingan of Deerfield died on Jan. 14, 2009, while in Calusinski's care at Minee Subee daycare center in Lincolnshire. Calusinski was convicted of first-degree murder and aggravated battery after she allegedly threw the infant to the floor when he became fussy, thus causing fatal brain trauma.

New findings from Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd, however, show that Benjamin had an abnormal head shape and had suffered a prior brain injury months before the child died. Furthermore, Rudd claims the original findings reporting a "skull fracture" on the right side of Benjamin's head "made no sense scientifically."

The new evidence, in the form of x-rays, shows that the alleged skull fracture might have been caused by the child's natural brain growth rather than by head trauma inflicted by Calusinski.

Rudd called the original findings of the autopsy "erroneous" and changed the manner of death to "undetermined."

Calusinski, of Carpentersville, maintained her innocence throughout her trial. She initially admitted to investigators that she became frustrated and threw Benjamin down when he fussed as she tried to wash his hands after he had eaten a snack, but she later said she had lied because she was scared and did not understand what the detectives wanted her to say.

"I want everyone to know I am innocent of this crime," Calusinski said in 2012. "I did not abuse or hurt him in any way. I will never stop fighting this. And I will always maintain my innocence."

Calusinski's attorneys contended she never harmed Benjamin and offered testimony from two pathologists who claimed Benjamin had prior undiagnosed brain bleeding that could have been abruptly aggravated by even a minor head injury.

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