April 14, 2024
Local News

DCFS takes custody of younger son of Crystal Lake woman whose 5-year-old is missing

Police say 5-year-old was not abducted, search premises, remove evidence

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The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has taken custody of the younger son of a Crystal Lake mother whose 5-year-old son is missing.

DCFS has had contact with Andrew "AJ" Freund's family since he was born in 2013 with opiates in his system and amid neglect allegations against his mother, DCFS Deputy Communications Director Jassen Strokosch confirmed Friday evening.

Andrew was taken into DCFS custody in November 2013, a timeline provided by DCFS shows.

The agency has had contact with the family on and off until late last year, Strokosch said.

Andrew's younger brother was taken by DCFS on Thursday, Strokosch said.

An attorney representing the children's mother, JoAnn Cunningham, said Friday afternoon that the woman is "worried sick" and had nothing to do with her son's disappearance.

About an hour later, Crystal Lake police entered the home in the zero to 100 block of Dole Avenue again with a warrant and took boxes and other materials out of the home to an evidence response unit. Police left the home about 7:30 p.m.

Authorities do not believe the missing Crystal Lake boy was abducted, and they instead are "focusing on the residence," according to a news release Crystal Lake police sent Friday morning.

Police K-9 teams only picked up Andrew's scent within the house, indicating that the boy had not walked away on foot, according to the release.

Crystal Lake attorney George Kililis stood with Cunningham and addressed the public Friday afternoon outside the Dole Avenue home where her 5-year-old son was reported missing.

"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."

Cunningham was preparing to leave the home Friday afternoon and has plans to stay with friends, Kililis said.

“The house has been through a search, and the house is in pretty rough shape and everything inside it," Kililis said. "Quite frankly, it’s very depressing to Miss Cunningham. She doesn’t want to stay here."

He asked the community "not to assume the worst" and said Cunningham was not involved in her son's disappearance. The attorney clarified that he only represented Cunningham, and had no information about the boy's father, Andrew "Drew" Freund.

Cunningham sobbed into Kililis' shoulder as he spoke Friday afternoon. The mother did not comment.

The boy's father asked people Friday to pray for his son's safe return. Freund said police still are looking for his son.

“Please pray for his safe return,” Freund said as he walked around his neighborhood. “Anybody that’s religious or believes in God, please say a prayer.”

Freund said he last saw his son Wednesday night, and he’s never run away from home before. When asked about all of the attention surrounding the family’s home, Freund said: “The only reason that I think that it’s good is because it gets the word out. The more people [who] see this, the more people that can help.”

Freund said Friday afternoon that neither he nor Cunningham had been arrested.

When Andrew was taken into protective custody in November 2013, he was placed in a foster home shortly after, and he returned to his home in June 2015, according to the department.

DCFS investigated allegations of neglect and abuse by Andrew’s father and mother twice in 2018, but both cases were determined to be unfounded. On Thursday, Andrew’s younger brother was moved to another home as part of a DCFS safety plan, according to the department.

Before it released its statement Friday evening, DCFS denied the Northwest Herald's Freedom of Information Act request asking for any documents related to the home or family, citing the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act. The denial stated that under certain circumstances, DCFS could choose to disclose specific information regarding the abuse or neglect of a child.

Those circumstances included the subject of the report being criminally charged with committing a crime related to the child abuse or neglect report, an adult subject of the report knowingly and voluntarily making a public disclosure concerning a report, and the child named in the report being critically injured or dead.

Andrew last was seen about 9 p.m. Wednesday at his home, where his parents reported that they saw him at bedtime but were unable to find him Thursday morning, Crystal Lake police said in a statement Thursday.

A person who answered the phone at the McHenry County Coroner's Office said the office had not received a body when asked about the boy Friday morning. Authorities searched the water at the nearby lake Thursday night. Sonar teams concluded their search about 10 p.m. without finding anything, police said.

Neighbor Janelle Butler said she saw police leaving the home with the woman, man and their 3-year-old son Thursday.

About 7:15 p.m. Friday, Tom McIntyre, a neighbor on North Shore Drive, dropped off a bouquet of flowers in front of the home.

McIntyre said there wasn't much he could do about the situation now, but he and other neighbors just wanted to do something nice.

"I guess when it hits a little home, it's kind of crazy when it happens," McIntyre said.

The Crystal Lake Police Department activated an Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System mutual aid request Thursday, prompting assistance from 15 police agencies and four drones to help search public areas, the release stated.

Andrew is about 3-foot-5, weighs 70 pounds and last was seen wearing a blue Mario sweatshirt and black sweatpants, according to the release. He has short blond hair.

Police said anyone looking to assist police can search their property and report anything suspicious to the Crystal Lake Police Department.

Anyone with information on Andrew's whereabouts is asked to call Crystal Lake police at 815-356-3620. Anonymous tips also can be submitted by texting CLPDTIP with the tip information to 847411.

• Northwest Herald reporters Katie Smith and Drew Zimmerman contributed to this report.