The mother of missing Andrew “A.J.” Freund, a 5-year-old Illinois boy who reportedly disappeared from his home Wednesday night after his parents put him to bed, hired a lawyer and left her home to stay with a friend, amid investigations into the boy’s disappearance.
“Mrs. Cunningham doesn’t know what happened to A.J. and had nothing to do with the disappearance of A.J.,” attorney George Kililis said on Friday, shortly before police raided the Cunningham family home off of Dole Lane in Crystal Lake. “Mrs. Cunningham is worried sick; she’s devastated.”
While JoAnn Cunningham stood sobbing beside her lawyer, Killis asked the public for privacy and “compassion” for his client. When a local reporter asked Cunningham to speak, Killis said the woman would not be answering questions and instead, he urged the community to help find the little boy.
“At some point, we got the impression that she may be considered a suspect,” Kililis said. “I don’t know whether she is or not…..Once I realized that, as her attorney, I advised Mrs. Cunningham to remain silent.”
The lawyer’s statement happened amid the release of child neglect and abuse reports by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). As CrimeOnline previously reported, the reports indicated that the agency has known about the family for years.
A.J. was born in 2013 with opioids in his system according to DCFS documents, which also indicated accusations of JoAnn Cunningham, neglecting him. The agency said they’ve been in contact on and off with the family since A.J.’s birth, until 2018.
Shortly after his birth, the agency took A.J. into protective custody. He didn’t return to his family until 2015. In March 2018, DCF followed up on complaints about the boy’s father, Andrew Freund Sr., neglecting him. The accusations were unfounded.
In December 2018, A.J. was removed from the home after reports of his mother neglecting and abusing him. The boy was returned to the home shortly after when the accusations again were unfounded.
“The department’s involvement with Andrew Freund began with his birth in 2013 and continued on and off through the end of 2018. The last contact between DCFS child protection staff and Andrew’s family was in December of 2018 while investigating allegations of abuse and neglect,” the agency stated.
— Daniel Gaitan (@dan_gaitan) April 19, 2019
Authorities stated Friday that they do not believe A.J. was abducted from the home. Crystal Lake Police Department said that a canine unit could not trace the boy’s scent past his home, prompting a raid on the residence. It’s unclear if investigators discovered any evidence that a crime occurred inside the home.
“During the last 24 hours, several police search and rescue canine units, trained specifically to locate people, were utilized in an attempt to locate Andrew. The canine teams only picked up Andrews ‘scent’ within the residence indicating that Andrew had not walked away on foot.”
A.J is described as a white male who stands 3-feet-5-inches tall. He has blond hair and was last seen wearing a Mario sweatshirt and black sweatpants.
Anyone with any information is urged to call the Crystal Lake Police Department at 815-356-3620. Anonymous tips can be sent to the department by texting the word “CLPDTIP” with tip information to 847411 (tip411).
[Feature Photo: A.J. Freund/Police Handout]