Crystal Lake community gives support for missing 5-year-old

By Gregory Harutunian For Chronicle Media

Andrew “A.J.” Freund is 5 years old, and was reported missing April 18, from his parent’s Crystal Lake home. (Photo courtesy of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Childre)

More than 200 people attended an evening gathering April 20 at Crystal Lake’s north beach park, to show support for the child and family at the heart of a mystery in Crystal Lake: Where is Andrew “A.J.” Freund?

The 5-year-old boy was last seen in his bed at the Freund family home, around 9 p.m. April 16, and reported missing the next morning. The parents, Andrew Freund and JoAnn Cunningham, arrived separately to the vigil, according to ABC News Chicago, and previously stated having no involvement in the disappearance.

The police do not believe the boy was abducted, as claimed, and have been centering their search on the residence in the zero-100 block of Dole Avenue, near downtown Crystal Lake. They believe the boy could not have left the premises on foot, as a K-9 team picked up his scent only at the family home.

A team of investigators descended on the home again April 19, making a thorough search for clues and evidence. Cunningham appeared at a press conference with her attorney, George Kililis, saying she left the home after having been emotionally shaken by the search efforts. Kililis also reiterated Cunningham has no knowledge of the disappearance and instructed her to remain silent when it appeared she may be considered a suspect. The boy’s father, who has reportedly been cooperating with authorities, has pleaded for A.J.’s safe return.

Since the incident was first reported April 17, personnel from 15 separate law enforcement agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have searched approximately 373 acres on foot, approximately 497 acres on aerial searches, and mutual aid call box team divers have combed the lake using sonar and camera equipment.

As of April 22, no new information has been released although information updates are expected. Crystal Lake Deputy Police Chief Thomas Kotlowski is acting as department spokesperson and has been unavailable for comment. Press releases are being issued through Crystal Lake municipal social media sites.

CBS News Chicago had said that A.J.’s younger brother is currently in the custody of the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services. State officials have also revealed extensive prior contacts with the family, beginning in 2013, when A.J. was discovered to have been born with opiates in his system. Allegations of neglect and abuse were lodged against Cunningham, and A.J. was placed in foster care at 1-month-old. In 2015, he was returned at 18 months old.

DCFS investigators dismissed the neglect claims in March 2018, when Cunningham re-entered a

drug rehabilitation program. Abuse and neglect charges against both parents were formally dropped in December 2018. No charges have been filed in the disappearance. A makeshift display with balloons, flowers, and an Easter basket is growing on the front lawn of the Freund home by community members and well-wishers.

Crystal Lake police have requested assistance from community in seeking information on Andrew “A.J.” Freund, who is about 3 feet, 5 inches tall, weighs about 70 pounds, and has short blond hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a blue Mario sweatshirt, and black sweatpants.

Police have not issued an Amber Alert, and believe there is no threat to the community. Individuals with information on the missing boy and his location should contact police at 815-356-3620.