CHICAGO - Two state investigators operated a “sham investigation” and are ultimately responsible for the death of a 5-year-old Crystal Lake boy earlier this year, a federal lawsuit claims.
AJ Freund’s parents have been charged with his murder.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court, alleges that Illinois Department of Children and Family Services investigators showed “inhumane indifference” to AJ’s safety, which ultimately led to his killing on April 15.
The suit was filed by State Bank of Geneva as administrator of AJ’s estate. It names as defendants Carlos Acosta, a child protection specialist for DCFS, and his supervisor Andrew R. Polovin. The two are accused of operating a shoddy into prior allegations that AJ was abused and falsifying reports about their work, according to the suit.
Andrew Freund, 60, and JoAnn Cunningham, 36, are charged with first-degree murder in their son’s death in April; they are accused of beating him to death in their home. AJ’s body was found several days later in a shallow grave miles from his home.
The lawsuit claims the DCFS employees failed protect AJ after several medical and law enforcement professionals contacted the DCFS hotline to report the abuse.
The suit alleges that only two of the numerous hotline tips were fully documented by DCFS. Polovin supervised both of those calls and, according to the suit, “rather than acting as a failsafe, he ignored the patent deficiencies” and “blessed his subordinates’ findings that the allegations of AJ’s abuse were ‘Unfounded.'”
In response to a DCFS hotline tip from December 2018, Acosta and Polovin failed to place AJ in protective custody after learning of a credible tip by a Crystal Lake police officer, the lawsuit states. The officer noticed squalid living conditions at AJ’s Crystal Lake home and a large bruise on AJ’s leg, and took AJ and his younger brother into protective custody, the lawsuit states.
When Acosta responded, the officer assured him the bruise could not have been caused by a dog, which AJ had claimed, and that AJ’s mother’s statement about being unaware of the bruise was not credible, according to the suit.
Still, Polovin signed off on the allegations being “unfounded” and released AJ and his brother “right back into the claws of his abusers, who were further emboldened … to gear up their infliction of horrific physical and mental abuse and torture, culminating in AJ’s murder,” the lawsuit claims.
In another December 2018 hotline call, Acosta was dispatched to the Crystal Lake police station for bruises found on AJ, but released him to his parents before taking crucial investigative steps required by DCFS protocol, the lawsuit states. While interviewing AJ, Acosta allegedly never probed the source of his bruising or inconsistencies in Cunningham’s story, the lawsuit alleges.
“Consciously violating every investigative protocol, Defendant Acosta prematurely released AJ from protective custody and returned him to the deranged whims of his drug-addicted parents,” the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages for AJ’s estate.
Acosta and Polovin were placed on desk duty following AJ’s death, DCFS spokesman Jassen Strokosch said in an email. The DCFS Office of the Inspector General is reviewing the case and will offer recommendations later, he said.
Polovin did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment. Acosta could not be reached for comment.