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Family of missing Crystal Lake boy has lengthy history with DCFS: officials

Andrew "AJ" Freund | Crystal Lake police

As investigators on Saturday entered the third day of searching for a 5-year-old boy missing from his Crystal Lake home, state child welfare officials revealed they’ve been involved with his family off and on since he was born.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services confirmed Saturday that its investigators have had repeated contact with the family of Andrew “AJ” Freund since he was born with opiates in his system in 2013.

Andrew was taken into DCFS custody then and placed into a foster home less than a month after his birth, DCFS officials said. He was returned to his parents in June 2015.

Andrew Fruend | National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Andrew Fruend | National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

DCFS investigators returned twice in 2018 to investigate separate allegations of neglect, both of which were deemed unfounded, the agency said.

On Thursday, authorities took custody of Andrew’s younger brother, who was placed in another home under a DCFS safety plan, the agency said. A spokesman said the agency could not provide a reason for the boy’s removal, citing privacy concerns.

Andrew was reportedly last seen about 9 p.m. Wednesday and more than two days of exhaustive canvassing have not turned up signs of the boy.

Police dogs searching for Andrew’s scent have only detected it inside the home, “indicating that Andrew had not walked away on foot,” Crystal Lake police said. “Information obtained currently has police focusing on the residence,” the department wrote in a statement.

Officers from 15 police agencies and FBI agents searched a 373-acre area on Thursday, in addition to a 497-acre aerial search conducted using drones, police said. Boats and sonar teams also searched Crystal Lake.

Both parents were seen near the home Friday afternoon, before a larger contingent of police vehicles arrived to search the home in the evening, according to the Daily Herald.

Andrew’s mother, JoAnn Cunningham, did not speak to reporters but her attorney gave a brief statement, the Daily Herald reported.

“Miss Cunningham cooperated extensively with the police yesterday until at some point we got the impression that she may be considered a suspect,” attorney George Kililis told reporters. “I don’t know whether she is or not and I don’t know how serious that consideration is.”

The boy’s father, Andrew Freund Sr., addressed television news crews, pleading to his son to come home.

“You are not in trouble,” he told ABC7. “We love you.”

According to police, Andrew’s parents have said they put the boy to bed but couldn’t find him when they woke up Thursday morning.

No AMBER alert has been issued and police said there is no evidence to suggest that an abduction has occurred.

Andrew is described as a 3-foot-5, 70-pound boy with short, blond hair, police said. He was last seen wearing a blue Mario sweatshirt and black sweatpants.

He was also wearing green Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shoes, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

His disappearance remains under investigation. Anyone with information is asked to call police at 815-356-3620 or text an anonymous tip to 847411 with “CLPDTIP” at the beginning of the message.