CHICAGO (CBS) — Sources are telling CBS 2 the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services will move to terminate three employees who worked on the A.J. Freund case.
The firings of DCFS investigators Carlos Acosta and Kathleen Gold, and their supervisor Andrew Polovin were recommended by the agency’s inspector general in a confidential written report prepared for the head of DCFS, according to sources.
Sources said the three DCFS employees are expected to be notified that they will be fired for their handling of A.J.’s case. The 5-year-old was killed in April, and his parents have been charged with his murder. DCFS had prior contact with the family, but investigators had deemed allegations of abuse unfounded, despite concerns from a doctor and police.
Acosta declined to comment on camera, but told CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli that A.J.’s case keeps him up at night. He also said he’s remorseful about the loss of life and always will be. He referred all other questions to the DCFS communications department.
A.J.’s estate filed a federal lawsuit last week against Acosta and Polovin, accusing them of either failing to investigate allegations he had been abused, or improperly determining the allegations were unfounded, despite concerns raised by police and others.
A.J.’s parents, JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr., have been indicted on a combined 61 charges of murder, aggravated battery, and concealing a homicide in connection to his death in April. They are accused of beating him to death, burying him in a field, and reporting him missing in an effort to cover up the murder. They have pleaded not guilty.
DCFS handling of A.J.’s case has come under intense scrutiny after his death, in light of agency reports that revealed A.J. told a doctor of possible abuse four months before he was killed.
In December 2018, a DCFS 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.
Crystal Lake 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 are being held on $5 million bond.
Cunningham was about seven months pregnant at the time of her arrest, and gave birth to a baby girl in June. A.J.’s baby sister is now in state custody. His younger brother was placed in DCFS custody days after A.J.’s death. His older brother, who is 18, has been living with his maternal grandmother for years.