A rare scene plays out this week in a McHenry County courtroom, as two former DCFS employees go on trial in the death of 5-year-old AJ Freund.
The former workers are charged with two counts each of endangering the life of a child and reckless driving in connection with Freund’s 2019 death.
Carlos Acosta and his supervisor, Andrew Polovin, sat quietly as their lawyers discussed the regulations in place at the time of AJ’s death. He was killed by his mother, four months after a disturbing encounter with a Crystal Lake police officer.
Jo Ann Cunningham, who admitted to drug abuse and psychiatric problems, had called police to report prescription drugs and a cell phone stolen from her home.
Officer Kimberly Shipbaugh testified Monday that when she visited the home in December 2018, she found broken windows, mattresses on the floor next to dog feces and urine, and Cunningham’s two children clad only in t-shirts and diapers.
Shipbaugh told the court she noticed a large bruise on her right hip that extended around her torso to her back.
“When I saw him come into the kitchen, I saw a horrible bruise on his side that literally took my breath away,” she said.
The officer told Lake County Judge George Strickland, who is presiding over this trial after other McHenry County judges recused themselves, that she was concerned about him being released to her custody. mother. She said she asked others in her department if the child could remain in protective custody.
“I was told the case had already been turned over to DCFS and it was now up to their court to handle it,” she said.
Prosecutors allege that Officer Carlos Acosta and his supervisor, Andrew Polovin, failed to follow Department of Children and Family Services policies when they brought the boy home.
In particular, McHenry County Prosecutor Patrick Kenneally accused them of conducting “sham investigations” into the well-being of AJ and his younger brother.
The men’s lawyers say both men did the best they could under the regulations at the time and disagreed with the procedures used as examples by the prosecution.
Generally, workers like Acosta and Polovin enjoy immunity from prosecution unless they deliberately act recklessly.
Both of AJ’s parents are currently serving time. His mother, JoAnn Cunningham, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for his murder. His father, Andrew Freund, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for various crimes, including helping to cover up AJ’s death.
The trial of Acosta and Polovin is expected to continue until Friday.