Hearing to determine where missing Crystal Lake boy's brother should live continued

A Tuesday afternoon shelter hearing involving the younger brother of missing Crystal Lake boy Andrew “AJ” Freund was continued.

Andrew’s parents, JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr., appeared in McHenry County court Tuesday. They had planned to attend a hearing that would have determined where their 4-year-old son would stay amid allegations of abuse and neglect in the home. Cunningham, who is seven months’ pregnant, cried throughout the hourlong hearing as her attorneys comforted her.

Cunningham has said she was not involved in her son’s disappearance. Freund Sr., who has not hired an attorney, has asked the community to pray for the boy’s safe return.

The younger son was taken into custody by Illinois Department of Children and Family Services on Thursday after 5-year-old Andrew was reported missing by his parents. Cunningham and Freund are disputing DCFS’ decision to remove the boy from his home, her attorneys said.

It was determined Tuesday in court that there was a conflict of interest with the attorney representing the child, Charles McKinney. A new attorney is expected to be appointed Wednesday, and a judge will determine Monday where the boy will stay while officials investigate allegations of abuse and neglect. Details of the allegations have not been made public.

During a brief break in the juvenile hearing, Cunningham and Freund embraced one another and cried. Cunningham had been in court earlier Tuesday for a traffic incident, which also was continued. 

Throughout the afternoon, a group of frustrated residents gathered outside the McHenry County Courthouse demanding answers about AJ’s whereabouts. The group shouted questions to Cunningham’s attorney during an abrupt news conference after the hearing.

Although details about the allegations were not disclosed in court Tuesday, one of Cunningham’s lawyers, George Kililis, said that there was “a lot of work” ahead.

“The state filed a petition with multiple allegations, and it requires a lot of work for us,” he said. “For that reason, and that reason only, I really have nothing else to say to you today. I wish I could tell you something more meaningful.”

McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally also addressed the news media gathered outside the courthouse Tuesday, assuring the community that he would continue to search for Andrew and anyone responsible for his disappearance.

“I promise as state’s attorney we will literally be working on this case every single day until we find AJ and, or, get justice for him – and not only that but … hold the people responsible to the fullest extent of the law,” Kenneally said.

Tuesday’s hearing wasn’t the first time Cunningham has fought to keep one of her children under her roof.

In 2013, she was involved in a legal battle with her mother, Lorelei Hughes, for protective custody of Cunningham’s eldest son. Hughes hung up on a Northwest Herald reporter who tried twice to reach her by phone Tuesday.

In a petition for an order of protection that Hughes filed against Cunningham during the 2013 proceedings, the grandmother accused Cunningham and Freund Sr. of forcing Cunningham’s oldest son to live in “constant fear, hunger and filth,” as well as denying him medical care, food, clean clothing and a healthy living environment.

According to Hughes’ 2013 petition, the boy was present during times his mother and Freund were under the influence of prescription medications. In the beginning of August 2012, Cunningham began leaving the boy with Hughes for long periods of time while Cunningham finalized a divorce, court records show.

When Hughes dropped off the boy at the Dole Avenue home where Cunningham was living with Freund, her divorce attorney at the time, she noted the house was “filthy” with dirty dishes and dog feces that would take two to three hours to clean.

Hughes also claimed there rarely was food in the home, and that the boy had “only marshmallows and water to eat,” according to the petition.

In one accusation, Hughes claimed Freund “frequently put on his army uniform and walked around the house with a gun in his hand and the child feared for his safety ...”

Traffic warrant arrest

The McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office has not filed charges in connection with the disappearance of 5-year-old Andrew, who went missing Thursday. Cunningham was arrested later that day, however, on a warrant for failing to appear in court on a traffic matter, Crystal Lake Deputy Police Chief Thomas Kotlowski said. The warrant was for a driving on a suspended license charge.

After Cunningham and Freund Sr. called 911 to report their young son missing Thursday, the pair went to the Crystal Lake Police Department to provide officers with more details about their son’s possible whereabouts, Kotlowski said.

Officers did not arrest Cunningham on the warrant until they were through interviewing her in relation to her son’s disappearance, her attorneys at KRV Legal said Tuesday. Cunningham posted bond and was released, Kotlowski said.

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