News - McHenry County

Illinois Department of Child and Family Services offers more detailed AJ Freund timeline

Caseworker, supervisor placed on administrative duty

Jennifer Rodriguez of Crystal Lake ties three heart-shaped balloons to a toy car as she and cousin Brian Pastor, 4, pay their respects to Andrew (AJ) Freund at 94 Dole Ave on Friday, April 26, 2019 in Crystal Lake.

Facing criticism over its handling of Andrew “AJ” Freund’s case, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has placed two employees on paid administrative duty and offered an expanded timeline detailing its involvement with the boy’s family.

The timeline, released Friday, details the agency’s involvement with AJ, whose body was recovered by law enforcement Wednesday. DCFS reported incidents of bruising, deplorable living conditions and a recent conversation between an emergency department doctor and AJ.

It also shows his mother, JoAnn Cunningham, was a DCFS foster parent in 2012 before AJ was born and that DCFS had gotten involved with her two other sons – who now are 4 and 18 years old.

In one reported incident from March 2018, DCFS received a call that Cunningham was seen unresponsive in her car and taken to the emergency room, where hospital staff observed odd bruising on AJ’s face.

AJ’s parents, Cunningham, 36, and Andrew Freund Sr., 60, have been charged with murder. Prosecutors allege they beat their son to death after forcing him to stand in a cold shower April 15. An autopsy conducted Thursday determined that AJ, 5, died of brain trauma as the result of multiple blunt-force injuries to his head.

On April 18, AJ was reported missing.

After an almost weeklong search, he was found dead in Woodstock. His 4-year-old brother was placed in DCFS custody after AJ was reported missing.

DCFS has placed a caseworker and supervisor on administrative duty in the wake of AJ’s death.

“DCFS is currently conducting a comprehensive review of our work with AJ’s family,” according to the statement. “DCFS will also be reviewing all cases that have been handled by these two employees.”

DCFS spokesman Jassen Strokosch declined to name the employees.

News of AJ’s death sparked outcry across the region, and a petition to hold the agency responsible had almost 30,000 supporters as of Friday morning.


• June 7, 2012: DCFS received a call alleging inadequate supervision. Cunningham was accused of abusing prescription drugs and neglecting her foster child. The case was labeled “unfounded,” meaning the agency did not find credible evidence of abuse or neglect.

• Dec. 24, 2012: DCFS received a call alleging environmental neglect and an injurious environment causing danger to her oldest son, who now lives with a different family. Cunningham was accused of abusing prescription drugs. The case was unfounded.

• Oct. 16, 2013: Two days after AJ’s birth, DCFS received a report alleging substance misuse and neglect. AJ and Cunningham tested positive for opiates and benzodiazepines. AJ was removed from his mother’s care a month later.

• Nov. 14, 2013: DCFS was granted temporary custody of AJ in juvenile court. He then was placed with his cousin in a “relative foster home.” Cunningham and Freund participated in parenting classes and drug treatments.

• December 2014: AJ’s younger brother was born and remained with Cunningham.

• June 2015: A judge ordered AJ returned to his mother when he was 18 months old. Between June 24, 2015, and April 13, 2016, a Youth Service Bureau worker made 26 unannounced visits to the home and did not see signs of abuse or neglect.

• April 2016: AJ’s juvenile court case was closed.

• Aug. 28, 2015: A case worker was informed Freund’s drug test was invalid.

• March 21, 2018: DCFS received a report that alleged substantial risk of physical injury/injurious environment and environment neglect against AJ’s parents. The report alleged Cunningham was brought to the emergency room after being found unresponsive in a car. Hospital staff observed odd bruising on AJ’s face.

• April 25, 2018: A DCFS investigator met with Cunningham, AJ and his younger brother. The investigator observed the boys to be clean and did not find signs of maltreatment.

• May 17, 2018: A DCFS investigator completed a final safety assessment of the home. Both boys were observed to be clean and dressed appropriately.

• May 18, 2018: A DCFS investigator verified Cunningham’s participation in drug treatment programs. The report from March 2018 was closed.

• Dec. 18, 2018: DCFS received a report alleging environmental neglect as to both boys and cuts, welts and bruises on AJ. Police also observed the ceiling falling down and the floor torn up, and the kids’ bedroom smelled of dog urine. Cunningham was arrested for driving on a suspended license, and both children were taken into protective custody.

A DCFS investigator interviewed the boys at the Crystal Lake Police Department. AJ said he received a bruise when the family dog pawed him. Cunningham told DCFS they were remodeling the home and admitted to dog feces and urine being present. A DCFS investigator asked Cunningham to get AJ medical care after she was bailed out.

The children were returned home.

Later on Dec. 18, a physician examined AJ but could not determine how his injury was caused. The doctor said the injury could have been caused by a dog, belt or a football.

Still, the doctor was concerned because AJ said, “Maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe mommy didn’t mean to hurt me.”

A DCFS investigator contacted the father to pick up the children from the hospital until the home environment could be assessed.

• Dec. 19, 2018: A DCFS investigator conducted an unannounced home visit. The living room and dining room were cluttered with clothes and toys. The father denied any corporal punishment, and he denied that Cunningham used drugs.

• Jan. 4, 2019: DCFS deemed the case unfounded because of the lack of evidence of cuts, welts and bruises.

• April 18, 2019: The police were called to the home in response to AJ being reported missing, and DCFS received a hotline report alleging environmental neglect and inadequate supervision. Police said the home had ripped-up floors, food lying around and garbage everywhere.

AJ’s younger brother was placed with a licensed foster parent. The younger brother was examined by a medical professional, appeared healthy and showed no obvious visible signs of abuse or neglect.