CHICAGO (CBS) — Four months before 5-year-old A.J. Freund was killed, he told a doctor “maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe mommy didn’t mean to hurt me” after police found a mysterious bruise on his hip, according to a timeline released by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
In the wake of A.J.’s murder, DCFS is conducting a review of its involvement with A.J.’s family, and the caseworker and supervisor responsible for this case have been placed on administrative duty. They will not have any involvement in casework pending the results of the DCFS review. The agency also will review all other cases those two employees have handled.
On Friday, DCFS released a timeline detailing their involvement with A.J.’s family, dating back to before A.J. was born. Four months before his death, an agency investigator deemed neglect allegations against A.J.’s mother unfounded, after a doctor could not pinpoint the cause of a mysterious bruise on the boy’s hip.
Timeline of A.J. Freund’s Murder
Police had called DCFS after A.J.’s mother, JoAnn Cunningham, had been arrested for driving on a suspended license in 2018, according to Crystal Lake Police Department reports. The officer had visited the family’s home, and noted not only was the house in deplorable condition, but A.J. was running around wearing only a pull-up and sporting a large bruise on his hip.
When a DCFS investigator arrived, A.J. said he suffered the bruise “when the family dog pawed him.” However, after going to the hospital to have the bruise checked, a doctor told the DCFS investigator A.J. claimed “maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe mommy didn’t mean to hurt me,” according to a DCFS timeline.
The doctor said he could not determine how A.J. was injured, stating the bruise “could have been caused by a dog, belt or a football,” according to the report.
The investigator released A.J. back into his parents’ custody, but advised his father to stay at home “as a safety precaution.”
The DCFS report also revealed significant discrepancies between the deplorable conditions police had found inside the home, and the conditions the DCFS investigator noted one day later. The investigator ultimately deemed allegations of neglect unfounded, “due to lack of evidence for cuts, welt and bruises allegation.”
The DCFS timeline also revealed that Cunningham was being investigated for her behavior as foster parent, before A.J. was born. In June, 2012, she was accused of abusing prescription drugs and neglecting her foster child.
Four months later, A.J.’s parents allegedly forced him into a cold shower for an extended period of time, and beat him to death. They reported him missing three days later, prompting a weeklong search that led to the discovery of his body wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave about seven miles from the family home in Crystal Lake.
A.J.’s parents, JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr., are being held on $5 million bond.
Cunningham has been charged with five counts of murder, four counts of aggravated battery, two counts of aggravated domestic battery, and one count of failure to report a missing child or child death.
Freund Sr. has been charged with five counts of murder, two counts of aggravated battery, one count of aggravated domestic battery, two counts of concealing a homicide, and one count of failure to report a missing child or child death.