Trial of DCFS workers charged after murder of AJ Freund will resume Oct. 13

Judge George Strickland could issue his verdict the same day

Defendant Carlos Acosta, defense attorney Rebecca Lee, defense attorney Jamie Wombacher, defense attorney Matthew McQuaid, and defendant Andrew Polovin listen to Lake County Judge George Strickland during the fifth day of the trial for the former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services employees Acosta and  Polovin before Lake County Judge George Strickland on Friday, Sept. 15, 2023, at the McHenry County Courthouse. Acosta, 57, of Woodstock, and Polovin, 51, of Island Lake, each are charged with two counts of endangering the life of a child and health of a minor, Class 3 felonies, and one count of reckless conduct, a Class 4 felony, related to their handling of the AJ Freund case.

The trial of two former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services employees charged in connection to the death of five-year-old AJ Freund will resume on Oct. 13 for closing arguments.

In a rare move, McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally criminally charged former child protection specialist Carlos Acosta, 57, of Woodstock, and his former supervisor Andrew Polovin, 51, of Island Lake, with endangering the life of a child and health of a minor, Class 3 felonies, and reckless conduct, a Class 4 felony.

Lake County Judge George Strickland is expected to make his ruling after attorneys present closings.

Prosecutors have argued that Acosta and Polovin failed in not following required guidelines that could have protected AJ, whose parents later pleaded guilty in his 2019 murder.

The trial began Sept. 11, and both sides rested early Sept. 15.

Defense attorneys, who did not call any witnesses to the stand, has argued the Woodstock office the two worked out of was overworked and understaffed.

Prosecutors and state witnesses say both defendants failed to follow required guidelines after an incident on Dec. 18, 2018, when a police officer and emergency room doctor saw a large bruise on the AJ’s hip, bruises and injuries on his face.

The police officer also testified to the “filthy” condition of the home where the kitchen flooring was torn up, the ceiling was falling in and there was a strong smell of feces and urine, as well as dog feces and urine visible on the floor.

Just four months later AJ’s mother, JoAnn Cunningham beat him and made him stand in a freezing shower before putting him to bed cold, wet and naked.

The child died and his father Andrew Freund Sr. concealed his body in the basement of their home at 94 Dole Ave. in Crystal Lake for about three days before burying him in a shallow grave in a field near power lines in Woodstock, according to courtroom testimony.

Cunningham, 40, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentence to 35 years in prison. Freund Sr., 64, pleaded guilty to aggravated battery to a child, involuntary manslaughter, and concealment of a homicidal death and is serving a 30 year prison sentence, according to court records.

The trial included expert testimony from a retired DCFS administrator, former McHenry County assistant state’s attorneys who works in the juvenile division and from an assistant state’s attorney from an outside county.

Each said that had the required steps been followed after the December 2018 incident, AJ would likely have been removed from the home. Barring that, they said, measures should have been put into place that would have “put more eyes and ears” in the home.

Still, lawyers for Acosta and Polovin argued that their clients could not have known or predicted AJ’s death was a certainty.

“Hindsight is 20/20,” Acosta’s attorney Jamie Wombacher said during her opening statements.

If convicted on the more serious Class 3 felony, they each face between two and five years in prison and fines of up to $25,000. The offenses also are probational.