Illinois officials will investigate to see if the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) failed to act in the case of A.J. Freund, the 5-year-old boy who was found dead in Woodstock on April 24, according to a report.
Before the boy was found several miles away from his home in Crystal Lake, his parents were being investigated by the DCFS, which released a 60-page-long report about how investigators had been in contact with Freund’s parents since he was born, CrimeOnline reported.
“This news is heartbreaking,” DCFS acting director Marc Smith stated after the boy’s body was discovered. “The Department is committed to conducting a comprehensive review of the entirety of our work with Andrew’s family to understand our shortcomings and to be fully transparent with the public on any steps we are taking to address the issues.”
‘Major Failures’: State investigates after DCFS was called to ‘cluttered, dirty’ home 17 times before 5-year-old boy A.J. Freund died
Now, his parents Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham are in prison on battery, murder, and other charges in connection with the child’s death.
In 2013, A.J. was born was opioids in his system, according to the report. He was taken into custody as an infant shortly after he was born.
Lorelei Hughes, Cunningham’s mother, voiced concerns to the state of Illinois about Cunningham being able to care for her eldest son, court documents show, reported the Chicago Sun-Times.
DCFS staff returned A.J. to his parents in June 2015, officials said. And in 2018, DCFS caseworkers returned to the boy’s home to investigate neglect allegations, the newspaper reported.
CrimeOnline also reported that the state visited the home 17 times before the boy died.
“ [The boy] was not provided food on a regular basis, eating a meal on approximately four of the seven days of the week and a remainder of the time there was no food in the house,” a court document read. “The child was sent to school daily with no food and no money to purchase a lunch…there was no food in the residence and the child had only marshmallows and water to eat.”
In December 2018, officers went to the home and saw the house was filthy and in a state of disrepair, according to CrimeOnline. They also reportedly found hazards inside the house that could have injured A.J. and his other brother.
“Upstairs in the room where the boys slept the window was open and the smell of feces was overwhelming,” the report said. ‘The boys were running around the residence playing and I noticed [redacted] was only wearing a pullup and had a large bruise on his right hip.”
A concerned citizen called local officials several months prior, saying the family had been living without electricity for weeks, according to the Sun-Times. When an officer arrived, Cunningham admitted that it was the case, but she stipulated that she was staying at a motel and other places.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker said the case is a tragedy, adding that it could have been prevented.
“The additional issue here is that there’s an individual and an agency that have made gross mistakes,” Pritzker said. “The investigation that’s ongoing now is intended to make transparent what those challenges were and how we should address them.”