The owner of a Lincolnshire day care center where a young boy died earlier this year was accused Monday of telling her employees to lie to police investigators.
Judith Katz, 64, of the 2600 block of North Pine Avenue in Arlington Heights, is charged with obstruction of justice. She was freed from Lake County jail after posting 10 percent of a $100,000 bond. She faces up to three years in prison if convicted.
Katz owned the now-shuttered Minee Subee in the Park day care center in Lincolnshire, where 16-month-old Benjamin Kingan of Deerfield died Jan. 14. She also owns Minee Subee facilities in Arlington Heights and Mount Prospect.
Authorities have charged 22-year-old Melissa M. Calusinski of Carpentersville, a teacher's assistant, with first-degree murder, accusing her of throwing Benjamin to the floor because she was upset.
Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Stephen Scheller said when police began interviewing other Minee Subee employees, they were consistently told two adults were supervising the children in the room where Benjamin was injured at the time of the attack.
Having at least two adults supervising children as young as Benjamin is required by state Department of Children and Family Services regulations for day care centers, Scheller said at Katz's bond court hearing Monday.
But about a week after Benjamin's death, police discovered a typewritten statement mirroring what investigators had been told by the employees that had been torn up and thrown in a trash can.
Scheller said police reinterviewed many of the employees, and some admitted they had been instructed by Katz on what to tell police.
"She was more concerned about being in compliance with DCFS rules than the investigation into a child's death," Scheller said of Katz. "There was only one adult in the room when Benjamin was hurt, and that individual is charged with murder."
Lake County Associate Judge Raymond Collins ordered Katz not to have any contact with the employees who are now witnesses against her in the case, but said he would allow her to travel outside the state for business purposes while on bond.
"Ms. Katz is innocent and she will be exonerated," her attorney, Jack Carriglio of Chicago, said after the court appearance.
The Arlington Heights and Mount Prospect Minee Subee locations were open Monday and being monitored by DCFS.
DCFS spokesman Kendall Marlowe said two violations are pending against Minee Subee Grand on Kennicott Avenue in Arlington Heights. He said the citations were issued Jan. 21, a week after Benjamin's death.
DCFS alleges Minee Subee in Arlington Heights failed to notify the agency of an "unusual incident" and didn't comply with requirements on age groups or group size. Marlowe said he didn't have details about the incident.
Marlowe said the Arlington Heights facility took corrective action after DCFS cited it for insufficient qualified staff in March 2008.
One father whose 5-year-old son attended Minee Subee in the Park in Lincolnshire said he was stunned to learn about the obstruction of justice charge against Katz.
Patrick Madigan of Buffalo Grove was among the parents who stuck with Minee-Subee in the Park and sent his son, Shane, back there after Benjamin's death. He said his son has been at home since the Lincolnshire location closed Jan. 30.
"The only reason anyone would instruct their employees to lie is because they know something is wrong," said Madigan, who with other parents formed the Stop Abuse in Daycare group that met for the first time at the Arlington Heights library in February.
Katz started Minee Subee with her late husband, Norman, in Buffalo Grove in 1974.
She's due in Lake County court April 30.
Charged: Other Minee day cares monitored by DCFS