Citing potential drug use, prosecutors seek medical records for AJ's mother
Prosecutors are asking that physician-patient privilege be waived so they can access medical records for JoAnn Cunningham, contending information about her drug use could relate to the April beating death of her 5-year old son, AJ Freund.
They also are seeking a lifetime of medical records for AJ, including information about a Dec. 18 hospital visit when the Crystal Lake boy reportedly told an emergency room doctor "Maybe mommy didn't mean to hurt me" while being treated for a large bruise on his hip.
Cunningham and the boy's father, Andrew Freund, face first-degree murder, aggravated battery and other charges stemming from their son's death. AJ's body was recovered from a shallow grave near Woodstock on April 24, six days after his parents reported him missing from their home. Authorities allege AJ was forced to endure a cold shower and then beaten to death.
Both parents appeared separately Wednesday in brief court proceedings before McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt.
According to prosecutors, Cunningham was seen by the medical staff at the McHenry County jail on an unknown date, then taken to Northwestern Medicine Hospital Woodstock for treatment. While physicians generally are prohibited from disclosing information acquired while treating a patient, an exception exists in homicide cases "when disclosure relates directly to the fact or immediate circumstances of the homicide," according to court filings by McHenry County prosecutors.
Prosecutors said it's hard to speculate what information may be relevant, but they believe "any information regarding the defendant's drug use (illicit or prescription) could relate directly to the fact or immediate circumstance of the homicide as it could go to motive, ability to recall and/or indifference to the well-being of her children," according their request.
Cunningham's court-appointed attorney, Angelo Mourelatos, filed a motion to quash the request but declined to elaborate. The motion will be heard Aug. 29.
The information sought is part of the fact-finding process as prosecutors build their case, said Assistant McHenry County State's Attorney Randi Freese.
"We just want to see what's out there. We're always looking for evidence to further our prosecution," she said Wednesday.
In a related matter, documents provided to the court by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in response to a subpoena were turned over to prosecutors on an order signed Tuesday by Wilbrandt.
Prosecutors are seeking medical and treatment records throughout AJ's life, including his birth Oct. 14, 2013, at Northwestern Medicine Hospital McHenry. And they requested information regarding an exam AJ received at the hospital Dec. 18. That's the same day DCFS received a hotline report of cuts, welts and bruises on AJ, according to a timeline of events released by the agency in April.
The DCFS timeline indicates AJ told an emergency room physician that "maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe mommy didn't mean to hurt me."
Prosecutors also are seeking notes and records from the nursing and social work staff at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital in Melrose Park regarding an undated visit of Cunningham by AJ and his younger brother. The request also asks for any documents related to reports made to DCFS.
Wilbrandt issued protective orders covering all the medical records, meaning any information can only be released to attorneys directly involved in the case.
Both Cunningham, 36, and Andrew Freund, 60, remain in custody at the McHenry County jail on $5 million bail.