Monday, December 19, 2016

Thirty Facts Suggesting Melissa Calusinski’s Innocence in the Death of Benjamin Kingan

Written between December 17th and 20th, 2016

Edited on January 19th, 2017

On Saturday, December 17th, 2016, CBS News aired “Blaming Melissa”, an episode of its investigative report series entitled 48 Hours. Reporter Erin Moriarty hosted the episode. “Blaming Melissa” has been described as a hit piece by members of “Free Melissa Calusinski”, a Facebook group dedicated to proving the woman’s innocence.1
Calusinski is currently serving a 31-year prison term at Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, Illinois. She was convicted of first-degree murder in the January 14th, 2009 death of toddler Benjamin Kingan.
In Illinois, a conviction of first-degree murder requires that the prosecution demonstrate that the defendant “killed an individual without lawful justification”, and either “intended to kill or do great bodily harm (or knew that the act would do so), Knew that the act created a strong probability of causing death of great bodily harm; or Was attempting or committed a forcible felony other that second degree murder”.2
She, her sister Crystal Calusinski, and Nancy Kallinger, worked at a day care center in Lincolnshire, Illinois, named “Minee Subee in the Park”. Melissa was an assistant teacher at the facility.3 The day care center has since closed, following a $2 million settlement with Kingan’s family.
On September 30th, 2016, a judge in Lake County, Illinois rejected a request to overturn Calusinski’s conviction.4 Melissa was 22 years old when Kingan died; she is now 30 years old. If she serves her entire sentence, she will be in her early fifties when she becomes a free woman.

What follows is a list of facts which, in the opinion of this author, suggest Melissa Calusinski’s innocence in the case, and point to her confession having been coerced.
Note: some of these facts do not directly point to Calusinski’s innocence; but rather merely suggests oversights in the prosecution. Point #21 explains a detail about the civil case between the Kingan family and the day care center, and has nothing to do with the guilt or innocence of Calusinski on an individual basis.

1. Calusinski had a low verbal I.Q., in the bottom 4%.3

2. Calusinski had been teased as a youth for her low comprehension skills.5

3. Calusinski was described as having an “extreme vulner having "
- Interrogated without an attorney present
ability to suggestion”.5

4. Calusinski was described by her attorney Kathleen Zellner as “unsophisticated about her legal rights”3. She was interrogated without an attorney present, and “never asked for a lawyer”.6

5. After she had confessed, Calusinski asked interrogators whether the incident would go on her criminal record, which suggests that she didn’t understand how serious the charge was.5 Calusinski was also described as believing that she would be allowed to go home when the interrogation concluded.

6. Although Calusinski had the right to leave the room during the interrogation (because she agreed to be interviewed), she claims that she was locked inside the room while detectives were outside. Calusinski stated, “They would leave and lock the door, and lock me in there”.3

7. Calusinski was interrogated off-and-on for somewhere between eight and ten hours (according to various, and somewhat conflicting, reports); from roughly 9:30 A.M. to 7 P.M. on January 16th, 20097; two days after Kingan died at 4:30 P.M. on January 14th, 2009. Most interrogations do not last anywhere near that long; most last only several hours at the longest.

8. Calusinski was deprived of food during the interrogation.8

9. Calusinski was deprived of restroom breaks during the interrogation.8

10. When Calusinski entered the interrogation room, she stated that she had “barely slept” during the two days between Kingan’s death and the interrogation.5

11. Calusinski was interrogated seated, confined to a 9” x 12” interrogation room, backed into a corner by two males – Lake Zurich, Illinois police department detectives Sean Curran and George Filenko9 – both of them older and larger than Calusinski.

12. Defense attorney Kathleen Zellner said police “got in her face, yelling expletives and slamming their fists”.5

13. Calusinski denied her guilt at least 79 times before confessing.

14. Calusinski has stated that she can’t explain why she confessed, nor why she demonstrated slamming Kingan to the ground during the interrogation.3

15. Despite having stated that she can’t explain her confession, Calusinski also told reporters that during the interrogation she was “terrified”; saying “They don’t know what I was put through in order for me to confess”.7 She also stated that she was “emotionally exhausted” at the time.7

16. The detectives who interrogated Calusinski arguably insisted to her that she was guilty (“he starts acting up and you get mad at him and you throw him on the floor”) because “something else must have happened”, and “that story you’re giving us is a load of shit”, and “that’s a bunch of lies”.3 Several of the interrogation methods used by the detectives parallel components of a controversial interrogation technique known as the Reid Technique.

17. Before confessing (six hours into the interrogation), Calusinski stated that Kingan “kind of almost slipped when I dropped him. And then he hit the chair”. 3 Calusinski “says she was putting Ben down, close to the ground on his tiptoes. “I thought he was going to stand,” she told the investigator. She said he fell and hit his head.”6

18. Reporter Ruth Fuller called Calusinski’s confession the “most troubling confession” she’d ever seen.5

19. According to their testimony, no workers at the day care center ever saw Melissa Calusinski become frustrated, nor angry, at the children in her care.5

20. Nancy Kallinger testified that she didn’t hear any screaming, nor crying, at the time of the incident.5

21. Two teachers (Melissa Calusinski and Nancy Kallinger) were present in the room at the time of the injury; which fulfilled Illinois’s requirement that two teachers be present in the room whenever there are more than five children.3 This means the day care center shouldn’t have been held liable, as it was complying with the regulation, at least at the time of the second injury (sustained on January 14th, 2009). However, Melissa Calusinski stated that she was alone in the room when she realized that Kingan was unresponsive;10 so holding the center liable may have been appropriate.

22. Day care workers showed the bump from Kingan’s previous injury to his mother. Prosecutor Steve Scheller stated, “The pediatrician actually examined Benjamin’s head, had felt around… said there was no issues that she felt needed to be addressed, that mom should just keep an eye on him”.5

23. Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd stated that the previous injury could have “easily” caused Kingan’s death two months later, even without a second injury.5

24. Head injuries sometimes cause vomiting; prosecutors attributed the vomiting to a stomach bug,5 although it’s unclear whether there is evidence to support the claim that Kingan was still suffering from such an ailment in the day or two leading up to his death, following his apparent recovery from his stomach bug after taking Pedialyte.

25. State pathologist Dr. Eupil Choi crossed out the word “significant” in an affidavit about the head injury which Kingan sustained in October 2008.5

26. Prosecutor Matthew deMartini called the previous injury “microscopic”, while Thomas Rudd disagrees, saying that the injury was visible to the naked eye.5

27. Prosecutors downplayed and suppressed evidence of Kingan’s previous injury, but conceded that the previous injury occurred, but said it was “too small to matter”.5

28. Some attributed the abnormal rate of growth of Kingan’s head (during the last several months of his life) to normal growth, while others attributed this growth to swelling of the brain.5

29. Lake County Coroner Thomas Rudd stated that Kingan was a head-banger, which if true could have made his previous head injury worse.5 Nancy Kallinger said Kingan threw his head back slightly, twice, shortly before he died.

30. Lake County, Illinois has a reputation of being reluctant to admit to falsely convicting the accused, in order to prevent the government from losing money in payouts to convicts.5


1. “Free Melissa Calusinski”,, accessed December 18th, 2016

2. “Illinois First Degree Murder Laws”,, accessed December 19th, 2016

3. “Melissa Calusinski: Was a Day Care Worker Coerced into a Murder Confession?”,, July 18th, 2015

4. “Guilty Verdict Stands in Day Care Murder; Judge Rejects Reversal”,, September 30th, 2016

5. “Blaming Melissa”, 48 Hours, CBS News, December 17th, 2016

6. “Melissa Calusinski: Detective “Made a Mistake””,, February 24th, 2016

7. “Daycare Worker Melissa Calusinski Reveals Why She Confessed to Murdering a Toddler: ‘I Was Terrified’”; People Magazine, October 13th, 2016

            8. “Is Deerfield “Killer” Innocent? “48 Hours” Suggests So”,, March 4th, 2015

9. “Questioning Melissa Calusinski”,, February 28th, 2015

10. “Lake County Coroner: Toddler’s Death ‘Undetermined’ in Day Care Murder Case”,, July 8th, 2015 

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