AJ Freund's DCFS caseworker, supervisor ousted
The state is no longer employing the Department of Children and Family Services caseworker and supervisor who were responsible for the handling of complaints about AJ Freund's parents in the months leading up to the 5-year-old's murder in April.
Caseworker Carlos Acosta and his supervisor Andrew Polovin "are no longer employed by the state," DCFS spokesman Jassen Strokosch said Friday.
Acosta and Polovin were named in a federal lawsuit filed by the dead Crystal Lake boy's estate claiming they showed "inhumane indifference" to AJ's safety despite repeated calls from neighbors, law enforcement and medical professionals.
The suit alleges the two conspired to produce falsified reports about the abuse allegations and ignored signs the boy was in danger.
Acosta is also a McHenry County Board member and has refused to comment on the case in the past. He was paid almost $100,000 annually for his work with DCFS. Polovin's salary was listed at nearly $200,000, according to the state comptroller's website.
Acosta did not respond to a request for comment, and Polovin could not be reached Friday.
AJ's mother, JoAnn Cunningham, pleaded guilty to his murder two weeks ago. His father, Andrew Freund Sr., is still awaiting trial on murder charges.
As part of Cunningham's plea deal she is facing a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison.
Prosecutors released details of their investigation that included recovering videos recorded by Cunningham in the weeks leading up to AJ's death that showed her physically abusing and psychologically tormenting the boy. In one video she is reportedly seen holding the boy up against a wall by his throat while he gasps for air as she berates him for a behavioral issue.
One of the videos recovered from Cunningham's phone is what ultimately led to the boy's father admitting the boy was dead, and not missing as originally reported by his parents. That video showed AJ lying half-naked on a bare crib mattress with bruises and cuts that he had apparently received from his mother because he wet the bed, authorities say the boy's father told investigators.
The night of AJ's death, the boy was subjected to a 20-minute cold shower and savagely beaten about the head because he lied about soiled underwear, prosecutors said.
His father put the boy's body in a bag and stored it in the basement for at least two days before taking it to a field near Woodstock and burying AJ, authorities said. AJ's remains were recovered in late April.
After Cunningham's guilty plea, McHenry County State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally said his office is instituting new protocols regarding the handling of abuse allegations.
"We are in the process of revamping a lot of our protocols and we're also in the process of making sure that any type of alleged battery or sexual abuse of a child that there is a police reported generated," Kenneally said. "We get that police report for our own review and we've assigned our special prosecutor to the abuse and neglect courtroom because we want to make sure over the next months, years that this is a top priority for this office."
Kenneally had specifically complained to DCFS about how Acosta was handling his cases months before AJ was killed. The county's top prosecutor said it was the first time he'd written such a letter to the agency.
According to the lawsuit against Acosta and Polovin, multiple calls to DCFS were ignored about "appalling" conditions of the family's home at 94 N. Dole Ave. In one police report, officers described the house as having an overwhelming stench of feces. Other reports described the house being without power when officials visited. However, DCFS officials said a lack of electricity is not enough to allow the state to remove children from their parents' home.
A court hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for next week.
Daily Herald Staff Writer Mick Zawislak contributed to this report.