‘Maybe mommy didn’t mean to hurt me’ A.J. Freund told doctors 4 months before he was killed

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According to a timeline released Friday by the Illinois Department of Human Services, 5-year-old A.J. Freund told a doctor “maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe mommy didn’t mean to hurt me” after police found a bruise on his hip.

Crystal Lake Police had been called to the home after A.J.’s mother, JoAnn Cunningham, was arrested for driving on a suspended license in December of 2018. Officers noted the home was in deplorable condition: “the ceiling was falling down, the floor torn up, and the kids’ bedroom smelled of dog urine.”

A.J. allegedly told the DCFS investigator at the time that the bruise had been caused when the family dog pawed at him, but later told an ER doctor that his mother did it.

DCFS released A.J. back into his mother’s custody, but asked his father, Andrew Freund, Sr., to remain in the home as a safety precaution. 

DCFS confirmed that its investigators have been in repeated contact with Andrew’s family since he was born with opiates in his system in 2013.

Andrew was taken into DCFS custody and placed into a foster home less than a month after he was born. He was returned to his birth parents in June 2015, DCFS officials said.

Crystal Lake police also have repeatedly been called to the family’s house. Officers in police reports described finding filthy living conditions, broken windows, evidence of drug use and the overpowering smell of dog feces.

In 2014, a woman alerted police that the tenants in the family home were using heroin after a she found a syringe on the kitchen floor.

In 2018, neighbors reported saying the house had no power, and was surrounded by grass nearly two feet tall.

After AJ’s parents reported him missing, authorities immediately placed his younger brother in the custody of state welfare workers.

Last week, police say his parents forced A.J. into a cold shower and beat him to death. An autopsy revealed the 5-year-old died from blunt force trauma to the head.

Acting Director of DCFS, Marc Smith, released a statement Wednesday, saying,

After a nearly week-long search for missing Andrew ‘A.J.’ Freund, law enforcement officials today confirmed his death. This news is heartbreaking. Protecting vulnerable children who come to our attention is at the core of our mission at DCFS. All of us feel this loss. Our priority is the care and safety of Andrew’s younger sibling. We will continue to cooperate with law enforcement in their ongoing investigation. 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.

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