Authorities visited 5-year-old AJ’s home 17 times before his parents allegedly murdered him, a report released on April 26 revealed in a timeline of events.
McHenry County Coroner’s Office assisted with the recovery and identification of the body. An autopsy revealed that the boy died of multiple blows to the head.
“To AJ’s family, it is our hope that you may have some solace in knowing that AJ is no longer suffering and his killers have been brought to justice,” said the Crystal Lake Police Department in the press release. “We would also like to thank the community for their support and assistance during this difficult time.”
PRESS RELEASEFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 24, 2019CONTACT: Deputy Chief Tom Kotlowski100 West Woodstock…
Timeline of Events
The Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) released a timeline on April 26 of its involvement with the family, revealing accounts of hotline reports alleging substance abuse from the boy’s parents and neglect for his well-being.
In the timeline, it states the Department’s first interaction with the family came in 2012, before Andrew was born, when DCFS received a hotline call alleging inadequate supervision and neglect for a foster child, and accusing the mother JoAnn Cunningham of prescription drug abuse.
The report was considered unfounded, and removed.
In October of 2013, DCFS received another hotline report after JoAnn gave birth to AJ, alleging “substance misuse by neglect.” The parents both tested positive for opiates and the DCFS took protective custody of AJ.
After participating in drug treatment, counseling, and parenting classes, a Judge ordered that AJ be returned to his mother in June 2015.
A Youth Service Bureau worker made 17 unannounced visits to the parents’ home from June 24, 2015, to March 11, 2016, and did not observe any signs of neglect or abuse.
Nine scheduled visits to the parents’ home were made by the Youth Service Bureau from 2015 to 2016.
Consequently, in April 2016 AJ’s juvenile court case was closed.
Reoccurrence of Reports
On March 21, 2018, DCFS received a hotline report alleging substantial risk of physical injury, neglect and a harmful environment inflicted by the parents. AJ was observed to have odd bruising on his face.
After numerous safety assessment visits from DCFS investigators, the home was observed to be clean, neat and adequately furnished, with no signs of the children being maltreated.
The March 2018 hotline report was considered unfounded, and the investigation closed.
Then, in December 2018, DCFS received another hotline report alleging environmental neglect and cuts, welts and bruises on AJ.
AJ’s mother called the police to her home, and there, police observed a large bruise on Andrew’s hip.
Police reported the home was in disarray, with torn up floors, ceilings caving in, and the kids’ bedroom reeking of dog urine. Police arrested Cunningham for driving on a suspended license and her two sons were taken into protective custody.
At the Crystal Lake Police Department, AJ’s younger brother, who appeared to be in good health, would not talk to the investigator, according to the timeline report.
When AJ was interviewed he told the investigator he got the bruise when the family dog pawed him.
After being questioned and agreeing to take AJ to immediate care, Cunningham was bailed out and tested for drugs. The DCFS investigator ended protective custody and the boys were returned home.
According to the timeline report, the ER Physician who examined AJ could not determine the cause of his injury. The doctor speculated it could have been caused by a dog, playing football, or from a belt.
The doctor reported that AJ told him, “maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe mommy didn’t mean to hurt me.”
After conducting another unannounced home visit, the home was found to be cluttered with “a slight odor of dog urine.”
Due to lack of evidence, the DCFS considered the allegation of cuts, welt, and bruises unfounded on Jan. 4, 2019.
Missing Child Found Dead
AJ was reported missing by his parents on April 18. When police arrived at the home it was found to have torn-up floors, and food lying around. Clothes and garbage were strewn everywhere.
After police found AJ’s body, the parents JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr. were arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
Other charges included aggravated battery, aggravated domestic battery, and failure to report a missing child or death. The father was also charged with concealment of a homicidal death.
The police’s press release stated, “All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless found guilty in a court of law.”
DCFS said in the timeline report they are currently conducting a comprehensive review of all work done with the family.
Both the DCFS caseworker and the supervisor responsible for the case were placed on administrative duty and will have no casework responsibilities as the review takes place, according to the timeline release.
“DCFS will also be reviewing all cases that have been handled by these two employees,” the timeline release said. “As we move forward, we will be fully transparent with the public as we seek to address any possible shortcomings in this incident and understand how we can better serve the state’s vulnerable children and families.”