Father of convicted murderer wants Pritzker to review her case

Day care worker Melissa Calusinski was sentenced to 31 years in prison for the murder of a 16-month-old toddler.

Her father now has a new strategy aimed at winning her freedom.

“I'm asking J.B. Pritzker, our new governor, to take a real strong look at all the evidence,” said Paul Calusinski.

Melissa’s father is asking Pritzker to set his daughter free. She has 20 years left on her 31-year sentence for killing Benjamin Kingan. She was convicted after a video confession where she showed police how she threw the toddler to the ground in an act of frustration. In her first TV interview four years ago, Melissa told FOX 32 she would never have harmed a child.

FOX 32: did you ever think that you would be found guilty?

“I did not, because I knew in my heart and from memories and everything else that I would never cause such a thing, ever. I'm very careful, I wouldn't even hurt a fly. I do what I'm supposed to do, the right way,” she had said.

Appellate courts and the Illinois Supreme Court have all upheld the jury's guilty verdict. Melissa's attorney, Kathleen Zellner, claimed the confession was coerced by police. She also argued that prosecutors withheld key X-rays which would have shown that the toddler died from previous head injuries.

On Friday, Melissa's father raised what he says is a new issue: that a Children and Family Services investigation found no abuse in the case.

“There was nothing. Zero. There was no child abuse. Nothing. And this never made it to court,” Paul said.

Calusinski won't specify whether he wants Pritzker to grant a pardon or merely commute the rest of her sentence. He just says he wants his daughter exonerated. His next "legal" move is likely to be in federal court.