Parental rights case involving AJ's siblings continued
The case involving the parental rights of slain 5-year-old AJ Freund's younger brother and half sister was continued Monday.
McHenry County family court Judge Christopher Harmon gave the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services until Nov. 19 to provide prosecutors with an unspecified investigative report and continued the case until Jan. 13. The report will be sealed as part of the juvenile court record.
The 4-year-old boy was removed from the Crystal Lake home of his parents, Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham, after AJ was reported missing in April.
On April 24, Freund 60, and Cunningham, 36, were charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery and other offenses after AJ's beaten body was found in a shallow grave near Woodstock. They remain jailed on $5 million bail. Neither was handcuffed or shackled Monday for the brief court hearing.
Freund Sr. was AJ's father and is the father of his younger brother. Cunningham is the mother of both and on May 31, while in jail, she gave birth to a girl. Genetic testing showed the baby's father was not Freund Sr. but a 36-year-old man who had stayed at the family's house.
That man died Sept. 29 at a hospital in Indiana, with the cause and manner of death pending toxicology reports. Court documents show he was among nearly three dozen potential prosecution witnesses in Freund Sr.'s criminal case.
At the time of his death, the man's probation on an unrelated matter had been revoked and a warrant issued for his arrest.
Harmon on Monday also discharged the man's court-appointed defense attorney, William Bligh, from the parental rights case. After a previous hearing and before the man's death, Bligh said his client was interested in having a role in the girl's life but did not elaborate.
Whether anyone else would have a legal claim in that regard is unknown and no one else has come forward.
Cunningham had sought to regain custody of the 4-year-old boy before she and Freund Sr. were arrested. Prosecutors began an action to terminate parental rights to the boy, and his half sister's case is being heard at the same time.
The boy and his half sister are under the oversight of a court-appointed guardian.
Freund Sr. is scheduled to appear in criminal court Thursday. Cunningham's next scheduled criminal court appearance is Jan. 10.
DCFS has been criticized for its handling of AJ's case. Last week, a DCFS case child protection advanced specialist and his supervisor were named as defendants in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of AJ's estate.
Among the allegations, the suit contends the agency conducted "sham investigations" and AJ and his younger brother were released from protective custody back to drug-addicted parents in deplorable living conditions at the Crystal Lake house.
The investigators showed "inhumane indifference" to AJ's safety, ultimately leading to his killing, the lawsuit alleges.