Judge rules AJ Freund's Crystal Lake home can be demolished
The vacant Crystal Lake home where prosecutors allege 5-year-old AJ Freund was murdered by his parents can be demolished, a McHenry County judge ruled Wednesday.
Judge Kevin Costello found AJ's father, Andrew Freund Sr., and other defendants in a lawsuit brought by the city are in default, clearing the way for the home's demolition.
However, Costello also granted a 14-day stay, meaning the home at 94 Dole Ave., can't be torn down until Dec. 12 at the earliest. Crystal Lake officials will decide how and when to proceed, according to the city's attorney, David Pardys.
"We have the order allowing us to do that," Pardys said of the demolition. "Now it's up to the city."
Freund Sr., who remains jailed awaiting trial on first-degree murder and other charges stemming from AJ's death, was in court Wednesday but did not object to any of the actions. He has owned the home for decades.
AJ's mother, JoAnn Cunningham, also is among the defendants, but was not in court Wednesday. She, like Freund, is jailed on $5 million bail facing a first-degree murder and other charges.
The home has been vacant since April, when Freund and Cunningham were arrested in connection with their son's death. City inspectors reported 41 violations at the home, declared it dangerous, and had it boarded up.
According to the city's 27-page suit, the best use of the property would be to demolish the structure rather than repair it, and build a new home on the site.
Pardys said none of the defendants except for the McHenry County clerk and treasurer had responded to the city's complaint by Nov. 6 as required.
Assistant McHenry County State's Attorney Colette Kennedy was in court Wednesday representing the county offices to ensure they top the list of lien holders for unpaid property taxes totaling more than $23,371.
Three other defendants named in the city's action were dismissed at Pardys' request as not having a current interest in the property.
Despite Wednesday's ruling, the home's immediate future is somewhat muddled.
In a separate action last week, the home was offered at a court-ordered foreclosure sale. However, there were no bidders, so it reverted to real estate investor and mortgage holder William Progar, who had set the opening bid at $49,900.
Progar also is a defendant in Crystal Lake's lawsuit, but he did not attend last week's sale or any court proceedings. He has declined to comment on his plans for the property.
However, his attorney, Jonathan B. Kaman of Crystal Lake, hinted demolition may not be the plan.
"Our position is it has more value as a structure rather than vacant," Kaman said during a court recess Wednesday.
In court, he told Costello there is "very preliminary interest in an alternative plan," but did not elaborate.
The official ownership of the home remains in flux. First, the foreclosure sale has to be approved in court. Kaman said he would be taking that step in the next week or so.