Owner of daycare where toddler killed dies day before her trial on obstruction of justice
BY DAN ROZEK AND ART GOLAB Staff Reporters April 16, 2012 2:08AM
Updated: April 16, 2012 12:48PM
The owner of a Lincolnshire daycare center where a toddler was murdered in 2009 died of cancer-related heart failure a day before she was to stand trial on charges she coached her employees to lie to police.
Judith Katz, 67, was charged with obstruction of justice after being accused of telling her employees to lie about staffing levels to police investigating the death of 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan.
Katz, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer shortly after being indicted, died Sunday at her Arlington Heights home, according to her attorney.
Though Katz had been scheduled to go on trial Monday on that charge, defense attorney Jack Carriglio instead reported her death to Lake County Judge John Phillips.
“The complications of cancer brought about heart failure,” Carriglio said during the brief hearing.
Katz had been in failing health, appearing in court Friday in a wheelchair and accompanied by a nurse for her final pre-trial hearing.
“She’s been fighting this for a long time,” Carriglio said.
Prosecutors said they also had confirmed that Katz died Sunday.
Phillips indicated he would formally dismiss the charge after receiving a copy of Katz’s death certificate.
Authorities said Katz instructed employees at the Minee Subee daycare center to tell police two workers were present on Jan. 14, 2009, when Benjamin suffered fatal head injuries so it appeared the center was following state staffing requirements. Police, however, concluded only worker was in the room.
Daycare worker Melissa Calusinki was convicted last year of first-degree murder after a jury determined she hurled the Deerfield boy to the floor when he became fussy. She received a 31-year prison term.
Benjamin’s parents were in the Waukegan courtroom Monday when Katz’s death was announced, but left without commenting.