Cops: Dead tot’s mom, boyfriend planned to flee
* Woman allegedly stealing cash at work to post bail for man accused of killing boy.
June 1, 2009
By Lori Caldwell, Post-Tribune staff writer
CROWN POINT–The felony charges filed last week against Kevin McKaskle in the death of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son foiled the couple’s plan to get him out of jail and out of town.
And not a minute too soon.
McKaskle’s girlfriend had been stealing cash from her employer to post his $1,500 bond, police said Friday.
“They were on the run, for sure,” Hastings police Sgt. Bill Mann said.
The warrant issued by Lake County on two Class A felony charges for neglect of a dependant causing death would have prevented McKaskle from leaving the jail, but Danielle Willard apparently didn’t know that.
“She went to bail him out and now she’s in jail,” Mann said.
Willard, 24, was pocketing money from her register at the Hastings Super Walmart.
“They have very good surveillance there,” Mann said.
Willard is charged with felony theft and has a $50,000 bond. McKaskle has charges in two Nebraska counties and faces extradition to Lake County on the neglect.
For Danielle’s mother, Kathy Willard, the arrest offered sadness and relief.
“I was stunned. But I think right now she’s where she needs to be,” the Crown Point waitress said Sunday.
Kathy Willard has had custody of her daughter’s youngest child, Dominick Seese, 2, since January.
For months since Dominick’s brother, Austin Seese, died at Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago, Kathy has worried that without legal intervention, her daughter could regain custody of Dominick.
“If she (Danielle) finished her parenting classes and passed the drug test, she would be able to take Dominick,” Kathy Willard said.
“He is a joy, and all I want to do is make sure he gets to stay safe,” she added.
Months of waiting
Austin’s injuries were discovered Jan. 27 when medics responded to his mother’s home. He was flown to Chicago, where he died four days later after being disconnected from life support.
Police noted Austin’s chest was decorated with permanent marker drawings of gang symbols.
The Cook County Medical Examiner
Dominick, too, had suffered blows. He had 25 different bruises and marks when a doctor examined him the week his brother died.
Kathy Willard took grandson Dominick home with her in January and arranged a memorial service for Austin, whose mother did not attend.
Then, as Willard developed a routine around the life of a 2-year-old, she waited for Gary police Detective Eva Collins to give her news on the criminal case.
For more than two months, Collins claimed she first needed a report from the medical examiner.
Willard’s constant fear was that her daughter would retrieve Dominick before the investigation was complete.
In April, Lake County Sheriff Roy Dominguez learned of the case and asked Cmdr. Shaw Spurlock to see what could be done.
Soon, Spurlock and the Lake County detective unit were devoting full attention to Austin’s death.
Spurlock spoke with Glick, who provided assurances that Austin’s injuries did not result from a fall down the stairs, as Danielle and McKaskle claimed.
Spurlock visited the couple’s Glen Park home, measured the stairs and photographed evidence inside, while Gary police claimed they could not reach the property owner.
He attended a juvenile hearing about Dominick, but no one from Gary police was there. Spurlock and Sgt. John Gruzska spoke to McKaskle outside of the hearing room, and learned he was alone with the boys all day Jan. 27.
One of Danielle’s co-workers remembers seeing the boys wave good-bye when she left for work that morning. She typically worked 12-hour shifts at a local doctor’s office.
Her former neighbors in Cedar Lake told the Post-Tribune they heard the children crying for hours when their mother left them alone. Two of the neighbors reported the neglect to local child welfare agencies, who visited the apartment days after Austin died, months after the complaint was lodged.
The investigation moves west
Shortly after Austin was injured, his mother and McKaskle moved to South Bend, McKaskle’s home town. Within weeks, he had been arrested on a drunken driving charge. At the time, Chief Reggie Harris said his investigators would attempt to interview McKaskle, but that never happened.
Spurlock, however, obtained information from South Bend police about McKaskle and even talked to some of the couple’s friends there. He learned none of them had been contacted by Gary officers.
Spurlock’s efforts paid off when he learned he couple had moved to Nebraska where McKaskle has a daughter. McKaskle, who describes himself as a “gangster rapper,” posted a photograph on MySpace leaving jail after one of his arrests.
On May 8, McKaskle was arrested after allegedly assaulting his stepfather.
When Spurlock, learned of the arrest, he drove to Nebraska that weekend and interviewed McKaskle.
Investigators believe McKaskle and his girlfriend realized the investigation into Austin’s death wasn’t closed and began planning to move again. Danielle developed a MySpace page for Austin where she pines for his loss and tells him “don’t rest in peace, play with God.”
A grandmother’s new life
Kathy Willard had raised four children before she took in a toddler.
Her teenage son, Brandon, lives with her; middle son, Zach, was named “Indiana college student of the year;” the oldest, Jason, is a corpsman in the U.S. Navy.
But Danielle was always a mystery, a troubled child who lied easily and cared only about herself.
“I think now I never really knew her,” Kathy said.
Facing serious criminal charges should be enough to keep Danielle from obtaining custody of Dominick, but Kathy wonders if her daughter will face legal repercussions for her sons’ abuse.
She learned last week that Danielle may never be charged.
“They say they’re having trouble getting a history of neglect on her,” she said. “And I know it’s not because they aren’t trying. Detective Spurlock has done everything.”
In the meantime, Kathy is relearning
Her first priority is to protect Dominick and keep him thriving. Kathy admits it’s a challenge.
“You just get up every morning and do what comes next.”
Contact Lori Caldwell at 648-3258 or email@example.com. Comment on this story at http://www.post-trib.com