Two former DCFS workers in AJ Freund case now charged with child endangerment

  • Andrew R. Polovin

    Andrew R. Polovin

  • Carlos J. Acosta

    Carlos J. Acosta

  • AJ Freund

    AJ Freund

  • Andrew Freund Sr. is led out of court after a trial status appearance with attorney Henry Sugden and Judge Robert Wilbrandt at the Michael J. Sullivan Judicial Center, formerly known as the McHenry County Courthouse, on Friday in Woodstock.

    Andrew Freund Sr. is led out of court after a trial status appearance with attorney Henry Sugden and Judge Robert Wilbrandt at the Michael J. Sullivan Judicial Center, formerly known as the McHenry County Courthouse, on Friday in Woodstock. Matthew Apgar/ Shaw Media, pool

  • JoAnn Cunningham, 37, reacts as a sentence of 35 years is announced Friday, July 17, for the murder of her 5-year-old son AJ Freund Jr. in April 2019 in her Crystal Lake home. With her is Public Defender Angelo Mourelatos.

      JoAnn Cunningham, 37, reacts as a sentence of 35 years is announced Friday, July 17, for the murder of her 5-year-old son AJ Freund Jr. in April 2019 in her Crystal Lake home. With her is Public Defender Angelo Mourelatos. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
By Mary Chappell
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 9/11/2020 8:14 AM

The McHenry County sheriff's office took two former Department of Children and Family Services workers with warrants out for their arrest into custody Thursday on charges of child endangerment and reckless conduct.

And while the sheriff's office wouldn't say Thursday night what led to the charges and arrests, the two men worked on a 2018 report of injury to AJ Freund of Crystal Lake, the 5-year-old boy whose parents were later accused of killing him and whose mother is now serving a 35-year sentence for murder. And prosecutors had been considering charges against at least one of the men in connection with the Freund case.

 

Carlos J. Acosta, 54, of Woodstock, and Andrew R. Polovin, 48, of Island Lake, were charged with two felony counts of endangering the life of a child and one felony count of reckless conduct, according to a news release from the sheriff's office.

Each was held at the county jail on $20,000 bail, meaning they would have had to post $2,000 to be released pending trial. Acosta was released Thursday night, according to court records. Both are expected in court at 8 a.m. today, according to the county jail website.

Acosta is a McHenry County Board member.

The sheriff's office said it "does not have any additional information related to the investigation leading up to the warrants of arrest."

But McHenry County State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally said a grand jury approved the charges Thursday. He declined to say what evidence was presented to the grand jury but said the joint investigation with police had been underway to some extent since AJ's April 2019 death.

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"The vast majority of the evidence was uncovered as part of the AJ death investigation," Kenneally said Thursday.

In May prosecutors said they were investigating whether they should charge Polovin. McHenry County State's Attorney Investigator Robert Diviacchi filed a search warrant affidavit May 7 seeking the personnel file, training transcripts and employee evaluations of former DCFS supervisor Andrew Polovin.

Polovin, who was fired from DCFS in December, closed a 2018 investigation into a large bruise on AJ's hip.

The affidavit -- which also referenced Acosta, a former DCFS child protection specialist -- accused Polovin of allowing protective custody of AJ to lapse before conducting a proper investigation. He's also accused of omitting a corresponding Crystal Lake police report, medical records and home safety checklist from AJ's December 2018 file.

"From the Inspector General's report, it is indicated that Mr. Polovin's lack of supervisory oversight was willful and (wanton), given the nature of the injury, the explanations that had been given and rejected by police and unsupported by medical examination," Diviacchi wrote in his affidavit.

Only the boy's parents, JoAnn Cunningham, 37, and Andrew Freund Sr., 61, have been charged in AJ's death. Cunningham pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 35 years in July. The father's attorney has said in court that a plea deal for the father is in the works.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Diviacchi said in his affidavit that Polovin failed to take several steps before allowing AJ to return home. Those include examining AJ's home environment, interviewing AJ's father, obtaining and reviewing police reports and medical records, securing a second medical opinion, and documenting the decision to return custody to AJ's parents.

The DCFS investigation cited in Diviacchi's affidavit took place about four months before police say AJ was killed in his Dole Avenue home. He had been struck repeatedly in the head.

Crystal Lake police officer Kimberly Shipbaugh originally reported the 2018 case to DCFS after she responded to a call at Freund and Cunningham's home on Dec. 18 that year. It was the third investigation involving Cunningham and her children.

Acosta met with AJ at the Crystal Lake Police Department that day and asked him about the large bruise on his hip. According to Diviacchi's affidavit, Acosta later described the injury "by saying he had not seen bruising like it in his years as a child protection investigator."

During their conversation, AJ told Acosta he got the bruise when the family dog, Lucy, pawed at him. AJ was taken to the hospital shortly afterward, and Acosta sent a photo of the bruise to Polovin via text, according to Diviacchi's affidavit.

"Acosta texted his supervisor Mr. Polovin 'Kid says (big dog) 'put paw on me.' I take that to mean a scratch.' Mr. Polovin responded, 'That looks nasty but if that's what the kid says,'" Diviacchi wrote.

Initially, AJ repeated the story about his dog to the doctor but later said "someone not in my family" hurt him, according to Diviacchi. Dr.: Has anyone ever spanked or hit you?

AJ: Yes

Dr.: With what?

AJ: a belt

Dr.: Is that what made this mark?

AJ: Yes

Dr.: Who did it?

AJ: Someone not in my family

AJ continued by saying his mom didn't mean to hurt him, and then returned to the story about the dog injuring him, according to the affidavit. After speaking with AJ, the doctor eventually asked Acosta to send a professional interviewer to examine the bruise, Diviacchi wrote.

According to DCFS records, Acosta documented that discussion by stating the doctor couldn't determine the cause of the injury, because she was not a forensic or child abuse specialist. The doctor went on to say she and her staff did not believe it was safe for AJ to go home with his mother, but Acosta indicated he and Polovin determined the child would be safe under his father's supervision, Diviacchi wrote

• Katie Smith of Shaw Media contributed to this report.

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