He was born with opioids in his system and police officers were called to his home numerous times. Yet for years, the Illinois Department of Family and Children’s Services allowed 5-year-old A.J. Freund to live in a reported filthy, decrepit unsafe home, until his death earlier this month.
“This agency, there is no direction, no mission and it certainly has not been protecting children,” said state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, a chairperson for the House Adoption and Child Welfare Committee, according to AP News.
DCFS is scheduled to explain today how and why the social services workers came to the conclusion of unfounded abuse and neglect accusations against A.J.’s parents, 60-year-old Andrew Freund, an attorney who had his law license suspended for cocaine use, and 36-year-old Joann Cunningham, a pregnant hair stylist with her own history of drug use.
Both parents are behind bars facing murder and other felony charges after they allegedly beat A.J. to death while subjecting him to ice cold showers for an extended period of time.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, DCFS released over 60 pages of reports earlier this month, filed after police officers were dispatched the to family’s Crystal Lake home. The officers noted broken windows, an overwhelming stench of feces inside the home, water damage on ceilings, torn flooring with pieces jutting out of the kitchen floor, and other hazards that could have easily injured young children.
“I got the sense from what I read that the cops were essentially begging (DCFS) to take the child,” Feigenholtz said, referring to a 2018 report created after officers visited the home on neglect allegations. “There were so many calls made, so many signs of trouble and still nothing was done.”
As CrimeOnline previously reported, investigators found A.J. deceased on rural land close to Gayle Drive and Dean Street in Woodstock, Illinois, on Wednesday. The little boy was found wrapped in plastic and placed in a shallow grave.
The discovery came exactly one week after Freund Sr. reported his son missing. The man called 911 and told the dispatcher that he couldn’t find A.J., and explained the last time he saw him was the previous night, in their home off of Dole Avenue in Crystal Lake.
Freund Sr. also told the dispatcher he had an early doctor’s appointment on the morning of April 18, but when he returned home between 8:15 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., his son was missing. The man said he thoroughly checked the home and the surrounding areas and couldn’t find A.J.
“I have no idea where he could be,” Freund said.
Authorities said from the beginning of the investigation that they didn’t believe the child was abducted, as a canine unit couldn’t place the child’s scent past the family’s home.
Cunningham has been charged with five counts of murder, four counts of aggravated battery, two counts of aggravated domestic battery and one count of failure to report a missing or child death.
Freund Sr. has been charged with five counts of murder, two counts of aggravated battery, one count of aggravated domestic battery, two counts of concealment of homicidal death and one count of failure to report a missing or child death.
The story continues to develop. Check back with CrimeOnline as additional details become available.
[Feature Photo: A.J. Freund/Handout]