Andrew 'AJ' Freund's abuse repeatedly reported to DCFS, lawsuit alleges

CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (WLS) -- A new lawsuit alleges the abuse and neglect of 5-year-old Andrew "AJ" Freund was repeatedly reported to the Department of Children and Family Services hotline.

"It's a red flag, after a red flag, after a red flag," said Peter Flowers, an attorney who represents AJ Freund's estate. "Then you get to a red light, a beaming red light, and nothing happens - and that's their job is to protect kids."

The federal lawsuit, filed on behalf of AJ's two surviving brothers, alleges DCFS only investigated two of several calls made to the agency's hotline.

It alleges employee Carlos Acosta ran "sham investigations" about reported abuse and concluded it was "unfounded," according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges Acosta's supervisor, Andrew Polovin, should have been a "fail-safe" but instead "blessed" Acosta's work and agreed with the conclusions.

"Failed is inappropriate to say. They showed a complete reckless disregard for the safety of AJ," Flowers said.

AJ was killed in April. His body was found in a shallow grave in Woodstock.

AJ's parents are now charged with the boy's murder.

RELATED: Missing Crystal Lake boy AJ Freund's body found; parents Joann Cunningham, Andrew Freund Sr. charged

The lawsuit alleges that AJ's mom, JoAnn Cunningham, overdosed in a car and was transported to a hospital in March 2018. AJ's father took AJ to the hospital to get the car keys, according to the filing.

On that trip, however, a medical professional saw odd bruising on AJ's face, and called the DCFS hotline.

The lawsuit states Supervisor Polovin showed reckless disregard and agreed the case was unfounded.

Nine months later, a Crystal Lake police officer responded to a call and saw a "large bruise" on AJ's hip, according to the lawsuit. The officer called the DCFS hotline, and placed the children into protective custody.

RELATED: Missing Crystal Lake boy: 911 call reporting Andrew 'AJ' Freund, 5, missing, police history with family released

A doctor examined AJ, who reluctantly admitted his mom hit him with a belt. Again, the lawsuit states Acosta concluded the abuse "unfounded."

"These two calls, which are really the picture of what went wrong here," Flowers said.

A spokesman for DCFS, Jassen Strokosch, wrote in a statement that both employees named in the lawsuit have been on desk duty since AJ's death.

"The DCFS Office of the Inspector General is reviewing the case and the department anticipates a number of recommendations from their report," he wrote.
Copyright © 2022 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.