Months before his body was found buried in a shallow grave, a 5-year-old Illinois boy had disclosed information about possible abuse to a doctor — but his alarming words weren’t enough to place him in protective custody, records showed.
Andrew “AJ” Freund, who was found dead on Wednesday a few miles from his house in Woodstock, was at the doctor’s office with a large bruise on his right hip on Dec. 18, 2018, the Chicago Tribune reported. Freund and his mother said the family dog jumped on the boy, causing the injury, but the doctor was still suspicious.
“Maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe Mommy didn’t mean to hurt me,” Freund then told the doctor, according to records released Friday.
Department of Children and Family Services, which was investigating the Dec. 18, 2018, complaint, said the doctor could not determine how the boy got the large bruise. The case was eventually closed a month later because there wasn’t enough evidence to keep Freund in protective custody after his mother, JoAnn Cunningham, was arrested for driving on a suspended license.
Freund’s body was found about 7 miles from his home on Wednesday after authorities launched a search for the 5-year-old when his father, Andrew Freund Sr., called 911 to report his son was missing on April 18.
Cunningham, 36, and Freund, 60, allegedly beat and forced the child to stand in a cold shower for a long period of time, killing him three days before he was reported missing. His cause of death was ruled as "craniocerebral trauma as a consequence of multiple blunt force injuries."
Records released by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services on Friday showed the agency received several complaints about the couple now charged in the boy’s murder. AJ Freund was removed from his mother’s care in Oct. 16, 2013, two days after he was born, after Cunningham and the then-infant tested positive for opiates and benzodiazepines.
The child was returned to Cunningham in June 2015 and a Youth Service Bureau worker continued to visit their home several times until April 2016 and found no signs of abuse or neglect.
The agency then received at least three hotline calls alleging abuse or neglect at the Cunningham and Freund household a year before AJ Freund’s death, records showed. Crystal Lake police officers were also repeatedly called to the Freund family home where they witnessed horrid living conditions, including broken windows, evidence of drug use and the overpowering smell of dog feces.
"It is my hope that you may have some solace in knowing that AJ is no longer suffering and his killers have been brought to justice," Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black said in a statement posted to Facebook on Wednesday.
Fox News’ Nicole Darrah and The Associated Press contributed to this report.