'Smell of feces was overwhelming': Police reports detail problems in missing Crystal Lake boy's home
Years of Crystal Lake police reports released Tuesday detail dilapidation inside the home of missing 5-year-old Andrew "AJ" Freund, as well as several contacts between his family and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
While coordinating a massive search of local parks and other open spaces Tuesday, Crystal Lake police also released a recording of Thursday's 911 call in which AJ's father reported the boy missing, as well as five years' worth of calls for service to the family's house on Dole Avenue.
The reports detailed several calls in recent years to DCFS, which had custody of AJ for the first year and a half of his life because he was born with drugs in his system. Another child was taken into DCFS custody after AJ went missing.
Police said they released the reports and 911 recording because of public records requests. No one has been accused in the boy's disappearance and his parents, JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr., have said they appreciate people's concern for their son's safety.
Police in December found their home to "not be up to an acceptable standard of living with two young children living at the residence."
"Dog feces and urine were scattered about the residence. I observed several windows of the residence to be open or broken with outside air entering the residence," an officer wrote.
Cunningham had summoned police to a fast-food restaurant in town to report that her phone had been stolen. Police officers followed her home and were invited inside, where they noted a ceiling peeling because of water damage and floorboards breaking apart.
"Upstairs in the room where the boys slept, the window was open and the smell of feces was overwhelming," another officer wrote.
Police said they noticed a bruise on one of the boy's legs and notified DCFS, but both Cunningham and the boy said the family dog was responsible. A doctor did not dispute the account, and the boy remained with Cunningham, who had been arrested on charges of driving without a license that day.
Four months earlier, police had been called to the home after a "concerned citizen" reported the family had been living inside without any electricity for weeks, police reported.
Responding officers said they were not allowed inside but did speak with Cunningham, who acknowledged power had been out "for awhile." Officers described both boys as appearing "healthy and happy."
However, officers were still concerned about the living conditions inside the home and contacted DCFS. The agency declined to intervene because "a residence without power does not warrant a DCFS investigation," the officers wrote in their report.
Crystal Lake Deputy Police Chief Thomas Kotlowski said the 63 pages of reports were released Tuesday after numerous public records requests from media outlets. Frequently, law enforcement denies or delays such requests, citing their concerns the release of materials would jeopardize ongoing investigations.
"We've seen a lot of decisions come down through the (attorney general's office) and transparency in policing has been a hot topic in recent years now," Kotlowski said. "We wanted to make sure we were complying."
The most recent police report, from the day AJ went missing, is an arrest report for Cunningham for failure to appear in court on the December charge of driving without a license. The case, which had been scheduled for Tuesday, was moved to May 21.
Along with the call records, police released a recording of the 911 call in which Andrew Freund Sr. reported AJ was gone.
"We have a missing child," he told the dispatcher.
The call was made at 9:04 a.m. Thursday, according to a time stamp on the recording sent to news outlets.
The father tells the dispatcher he had been at a doctor's appointment that morning and when he returned home, he went into AJ's room sometime between 8:15 and 8:30 a.m. "to say good morning, and he wasn't there."
He tells the dispatcher he had canvassed the neighborhood, a gas station nearby and a local park.
"We went through the house completely," Freund Sr. tells the dispatcher. "Closets, the basement, the garage, everywhere."
After less than five minutes on the phone with the dispatcher, a police officer is at the Freunds' doorstep and the call ends. The search for AJ was underway.
Police initially focused much of their investigation on the house on the 0-100 block of Dole Avenue since AJ disappeared. But this week they widened the search.
About 40 searchers converged on Crystal Lake Park District's Veteran Acres Park Tuesday, setting up a command post at a picnic shelter and launching a boat into the pond.
Searchers from Boone County, Hanover Township, New Lenox and Lemont's Task Force 75, as well as nonprofit aid group Christian Aid Ministries, teamed up to scour the 140-acre park at Route 176 and Walkup Avenue and connecting 185-acre Sterne's Woods & Fen.
Police searched Lippold Park in Crystal Lake on Monday.
Neighbors near Veteran Acres reported hearing helicopters about 8 a.m.
"I've not ever seen anything like this before," said Marilyn Stoermer, who has lived across the street for 30 years.
Police have said there is no indication AJ was abducted and no sign he walked away from his home. Police said Monday they were focusing on the family house and the people who last saw or had contact with him.
Matt and Kim Schneider and their 3-year-old son, Tyler, of Lake in the Hills, were among a couple of dozen people on a hill at a nature center overlooking a pond where crews were searching.
"It's an emotional thing, especially being the parents of a little one," Kim Schneider said. "There's a lot of support for AJ. We just want him found."
• Daily Herald staff writer Mick Zawislak contributed to this report.