Trial of DCFS workers charged after murder of AJ Freund will resume Oct. 13

The trial of two former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services employees charged in connection to the death of 5-year-old AJ Freund will resume on Oct. 13 for closing arguments.

In a rare move, McHenry County State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally criminally charged former child protection specialist Carlos Acosta, 57, of Woodstock, and his former supervisor Andrew Polovin, 51, of Island Lake, with endangering the life of a child and health of a minor, Class 3 felonies, and reckless conduct, a Class 4 felony.

Lake County Judge George Strickland is expected to make his ruling after attorneys present closings.

Prosecutors have argued that Acosta and Polovin failed in not following required guidelines that could have protected AJ, whose parents later pleaded guilty in his 2019 murder.

The trial began Sept. 11, and both sides rested early Sept. 15.

Defense attorneys, who did not call any witnesses to the stand, have argued the Woodstock office the two worked out of was overworked and understaffed.

Prosecutors and state witnesses say both defendants failed to follow required guidelines after an incident on Dec. 18, 2018, when a police officer and emergency room doctor saw a large bruise on AJ's hip, bruises and injuries on his face.

The police officer also testified to the "filthy" condition of the home where the kitchen flooring was torn up, the ceiling was falling in, and there was a strong smell of feces and urine, as well as dog feces and urine visible on the floor.

Just four months later, AJ's mother, JoAnn Cunningham, beat him and made him stand in a freezing shower before putting him to bed when he was cold, wet and naked.

The child died, and his father, Andrew Freund Sr., concealed his body in the basement of their home in Crystal Lake for about three days before burying him in a shallow grave in a field near power lines in Woodstock, according to courtroom testimony.

Cunningham, 40, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Freund Sr., 64, pleaded guilty to aggravated battery to a child, involuntary manslaughter, and concealment of a homicidal death and is serving a 30-year prison sentence, according to court records.

The trial included expert testimony from a retired DCFS administrator, former McHenry County assistant state's attorneys who works in the juvenile division and from an assistant state's attorney from an outside county.

Each said that had the required steps been followed after the December 2018 incident, AJ would likely have been removed from the home. Barring that, they said, measures should have been put into place that would have "put more eyes and ears" in the home.

Still, lawyers for Acosta and Polovin argued that their clients could not have known or predicted AJ's death was a certainty.

"Hindsight is 20/20," Acosta's attorney, Jamie Wombacher, said during her opening statements.

If convicted of the more serious Class 3 felony, they each face between two and five years in prison and fines of up to $25,000. The offenses also are probational.

Former Department of Children and Family Services caseworker Carlos Acosta listens in court on Sept. 15. Gregory Shaver/Shaw Local News Network
Former Department of Children and Family Services supervisor Andrew Polovin sits in a Woodstock courtroom on Friday Sept. 15. Gregory Shaver/Shaw Local News Network
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