Crystal Lake community holds vigil for missing boy to "light the way for AJ"

CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (WLS) -- Saturday, more than hundred little candles were passed throughout a crowd near Crystal Lake's Main Beach as members of the community gathered for a vigil to "Light the way for AJ."

RELATED: Missing Crystal Lake boy Andrew 'AJ' Freund: Boy, 5, did not leave home on foot, police say

It's been three days since anyone has last seen 5-year-old AJ Freund who disappeared from his home on Dole Avenue.

AJ was last seen around 9 p.m. Wednesday when his parents told police he went to bed. By Thursday morning, police said he was missing.

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A 5-year-old Crystal Lake boy last seen on Wednesday night remains missing, and police said Friday that they are focusing their investigation on the boy's home.

"When our community is hurting, it affects every single one of us," said vigil co-organizer Lisa Kincaid. "When we think of AJ being missing, he is our child."

People were given the opportunity to offer words of support and prayer.

"Let's obviously keep in mind AJ's parents and the extraordinary grief, they obviously must be going through," said Father Jerome Koutnik with Saint Thomas Church.

Saturday, Crystal Lake Police and the FBI said they were focusing their investigation on the family's home where neighbors have left stuffed animals and Easter baskets in hopes of his safe return.

AJ's parents attended the vigil, his mother, Joann Cunningham, came with a children's blanket wrapped around her. His father, Andrew Freund, Sr., stood back just having returned for an hours-long visit with Crystal Lake Police.

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A 5-year-old Crystal Lake boy last seen on Wednesday night remains missing, and police said Friday that they are focusing their investigation on the boy's home.

Before the vigil Freund Sr. made one more plea to the public.

"Everybody who has been so inclined please pray for the safe return of my son," he said.

And for the first time, we are hearing from Cunningham in an interview with Good Morning America.

"I just want my kid," Cunningham tearfully said, "I want to be home together, I just want my kid that's all.

AJ has short, blonde hair and is approximately three-foot-five, weighing 70 pounds. He was last seen wearing a blue Mario sweatshirt and black sweatpants.

Law enforcement from several agencies searched the neighborhood Thursday with canines. FBI agents were seen leaving with what appeared to be items from the residence. Teams on Crystal Lake used sonar equipment in an attempt to locate the boy.

Friday, police said canine units only picked up AJ's scent within the residence, indicating Andrew had not walked away on foot. Police said there is no indication that an abduction took place.

Police have called Freund's home a crime scene. The home sits quiet, empty and in disrepair with several windows missing. Shortly before 5 p.m. a large police presence was once again seen in and around the home, though authorities didn't say why so many officers were there.

Andrew Freund, Sr., the boy's father, was approached by detectives when he left the home for the first time Friday. Detectives asked him to come with them right then. Freund responded, "I need to get a phone. Then I'm gonna come back."

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HAVE YOU SEEN HIM? Police are asking for your help to find a missing 5-year-old boy.

Freund was seen going in and out the front door throughout the day and spoke briefly with reporters after leaving through a side door.
"We're just extremely worried," he said. "If anybody knows anything about where Andrew Jr. is please, please, contact the Crystal Lake Police Department. Let's get him home."

"AJ, please come home," Freund added before he walked away from cameras. "We love you very much. You're not in any trouble, we're just worried to death. Please, please come home."

AJ's mother, Joanne Cunningham, appeared outside the home with her attorney George Kililis Friday afternoon for a brief press conference. Cunningham did not speak, but Kililis asserted her innocence and said she was not involved in AJ's disappearance. He said evidence of the search in the house was distressing for her, so she would be staying with a friend for a couple days.

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Andrew 'AJ' Freund's mother appeared with her attorney at a brief Friday afternoon press conference about her missing son in Crystal Lake.

Kililis said Cunningham cooperated fully with police Thursday following the initial report of her son's disappearance until he got the impression she was considered a suspect, at which time he said he advised her to exercise her right to remain silent.

Cunningham left the home with her attorney and a plastic bag that appeared to be filled with items including photos of her missing son.

Kililis said he was not representing Freund's father.
When asked, Crystal Lake police would not say if the boy's parents are considered suspects in the case, but did say based off information they've received investigators have now centered their attention on his home.

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A 5-year-old Crystal Lake boy last seen on Wednesday night remains missing, and police said Friday that they are focusing their investigation on the boy's home.

One neighbor said she couldn't sleep Thursday night.

"He's little and it's cold try not to imagine the worst at this point," neighbor Janelle Butler. "I think a lot of people are worried about that. There's been no sightings."

Several neighbors, who did not want to be identified, said that police were at the home a few times a month. Many neighbors said they often heard loud fights inside and outside the home and have called authorities to do well-being checks on the children.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said they have been involved with the family on and off since AJ's birth in 2013. DCFS said AJ's younger brother was placed in a different home Thursday after their parents reported AJ missing.

Police said they do not believe there is a threat to the community.

Anyone with information about the child's location is asked to contact the Crystal Lake Police Department at 815-356-3620. In addition, anyone with a cell phone can send an anonymous tip to the Crystal Lake Police Department by texting the word CLPDTIP along with the tip information to 847411 (tip411).
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