WOODSTOCK, Ill. (CBS) — A former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services caseworker and his supervisor who both worked on the A.J. Freund case have been arrested on child endangerment charges.
Carlos Acosta, 54, of Woodstock, and Andrew Polovin, 48, of Island Lake, were charged with two felony counts of endangering the life of a child and one count of reckless conduct, according to the McHenry County Sheriff’s office.
Both were taken into custody without incident and taken to the McHenry County Correctional Facility.
The arrests were related to the A.J. Freund case, but officials late Thursday did not have further details.
Gov. JB Pritzker said Friday morning that Acosta and Polovin should be held responsible “to the fullest extent of the law” if they are indeed responsible for putting A.J. in danger.
“What happened to A.J. Freund is a tremendous tragedy,” he said. “It’s an unfathomable tragedy, honestly.”
Acosta and Polovin were both fired last fall for their handling of A.J.’s case, along with DCFS caseworker Kathleen Gold. The 5-year-old was killed in April 2019, and his parents were later charged with his murder. His mother has pleaded guilty and is serving time in prison.
DCFS had had prior contact with the family, but investigators had deemed allegations of abuse unfounded, despite concerns from a doctor and police.
A.J.’s estate filed a federal lawsuit last fall 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., were indicted in May 2019 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 both initially pleaded not guilty, but Cunningham changed her plea to guilty last December.
She was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
A McHenry County judge set a December trial date for Andrew Freund Sr., but prosecutors and defense attorneys expect to reach a plea deal this month to avoid a trial.
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 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 since-demolished 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.