Police focus on missing Crystal Lake boy's house; parents plead for his safety
Authorities investigating the disappearance of a 5-year-old boy from Crystal Lake said Friday there is no indication he was abducted or even left his house.
After a night of activity Thursday, the search for Andrew "AJ" Freund, missing since Wednesday night, slowed with no signs of police activity Friday morning in the neighborhood where the boy's family lives. But then shortly before 5 p.m. a large police presence was again seen in and around the home, though authorities didn't say why so many officers were there. And the boy's parents pleaded for the boy's safety.
Andrew's father, Andrew Freund Sr., was seen walking the streets near his house Friday.
"Andrew, please come home," he said, according to ABC 7 Chicago. "You are not in trouble. We love you."
"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."
The boy's father was approached by detectives who asked him to come with them for an interview, ABC reported, but he declined.
AJ's mother, JoAnn Cunningham, later appeared outside the home with her attorney, George Kililis, for a brief news conference. Cunningham did not speak, but Kililis asserted her innocence and said she was not involved in AJ's disappearance.
Kililis said evidence of the search in the house was distressing for her, so she would be staying with a friend for a couple of days.
"JoAnn came here today to stay, hoping that AJ would come back at any moment and walk through the house," he said. "The house has gone through a search and the house is in rough shape and everything inside it. Quite frankly, it's very depressing to Miss Cunningham and she doesn't want to stay here."
Kililis said Cunningham cooperated fully with police Thursday after the initial report of her son's disappearance, but he said he soon advised her to exercise her right to remain silent.
"Miss Cunningham cooperated extensively with the police yesterday until at some point we got the impression that she may be considered a suspect," Kililis said. "I don't know whether she is or not and I don't know how serious that consideration is."
Cunningham left the home with her attorney and a plastic bag filled with items including photos of her missing son.
"Miss Cunningham is worried sick. She's devastated," Kililis said. "And we are asking for a little bit of privacy and understanding and compassion from you guys and the rest of the community, please. And we are asking for the community's help in trying to find AJ."
Kililis said he was not representing Freund's father.
When asked by ABC 7, Crystal Lake police would not say if the boy's parents are considered suspects in the case. Later Friday evening they were seen bringing large cardboard sheets into the house and taking a couple of filled brown bags out.
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, ABC 7 reported. DCFS said AJ's younger brother was placed in a different home Thursday after their parents reported AJ missing.
Andrew was last seen about 9 p.m. Wednesday on the 0-100 block of Dole Avenue. His parents reported him missing Thursday morning.
After an initial foot search of the area by Crystal Lake police, a small task force of officers was seen around and inside the Freund house Thursday night, and bloodhounds were used to search the yard and neighborhood. Police said in a news release they now are focusing their investigation on the boy's house.
"During the last 24 hours, several police search and rescue canine units, trained specifically to locate people, were utilized in an attempt to locate Andrew," according to the news release. "The canine teams only picked up Andrews 'scent' within the residence, indicating that Andrew had not walked away on foot."
Fifteen police agencies helped with a coordinated search covering roughly 373 acres on foot and about 497 acres by drones.
Police used a boat equipped with sonar to search Crystal Lake near Main Beach and cameras to search under all the docks and piers along the shoreline. They disbanded the search at 10 p.m. Thursday without finding anything.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and FBI agents specializing in missing children were working with Crystal Lake police.
"At this point, the police department has no reason to believe there is a threat to the community," according to the news release. "The police department would like to thank the public for their continued offers of assistance and support."
"At this time, if the public is looking to assist, we are asking that you search your property and that you report anything suspicious to the Crystal Lake Police Department," the release said.
Neighbor Janelle Butler, who lives across the street from the family's house, said police dogs were in the house in the middle of the night and police where there until the early hours Friday.
"They towed the family car," Butler said, adding, "The parents left with the detectives."
Butler said FBI and police questioned neighbors about what they knew about the family, how often they saw Andrew and why the house was in disrepair.
The family "kept completely to themselves" and the house is being foreclosed, she said.
She didn't know Andrew except for the time he came trick-or-treating to her house.
Andrew is roughly 3 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs 70 pounds. He has short, blond hair. He was last seen wearing a blue Mario sweatshirt and black sweatpants, police said.
Anyone with information is urged to call the department at (815) 356-3620. An anonymous tip can be sent to the Crystal Lake Police Department by texting the word CLPDTIP along with the tip information to 847411 (TIP411).