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Local

Group to protest outside DCFS building, courthouse in memory of AJ

The house where Andrew “AJ” Freund was allegedly killed by his parents, JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr., sits boarded up Wednesday, May 29, 2019 in Crystal Lake.
KKoontz – For Shaw Media
The house where Andrew “AJ” Freund was allegedly killed by his parents, JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr., sits boarded up Wednesday, May 29, 2019 in Crystal Lake. KKoontz – For Shaw Media

A Harvard woman has spearheaded the organization of two silent protests aimed at keeping the story of slain 5-year-old Crystal Lake boy AJ Freund in at the forefront of the community's mind.

The first demonstration will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday outside the Woodstock Department of Children and Family Services building, 113 Newell St., Woodstock. The second demonstration is planned to begin at 8 a.m. and last until 11 a.m. June 18 outside the McHenry County Courthouse, 2200 N. Seminary Ave., Woodstock.

AJ's parents, JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr. also have court appearances scheduled for that morning. They both remained at the County Jail Monday afternoon on first-degree murder charges tied to the boy's death.

The "peaceful protests" are a way for the events' creator, Tracy Kotzman, and other residents to apply pressure to officials who have power to change DCFS investigative procedures. Thy demonstrations also will act as a plead to the judicial system to hold AJ's parents, accountable for their son's alleged murder, she said.

"The point of it is to just keep it in the public eye," Kotzman said.

Last week, DCFS investigator and McHenry County Board Member Carlos Acosta spoke personally about a Dec. 18 situation in which he was called to question AJ and his mother about a bruise on the boy's hip. After repeatedly telling police Acosta, and an ER doctor that he got the bruise when his dog jumped on him, AJ eventually told the doctor in private that his mother might have hit him with a belt.

Acosta and his supervisor, whose name has not been released, deemed the report of possible environmental neglect unsubstantiated and closed the case. DCFS was not contacted again in reference to AJ until Freund reported his son missing on April 18.

Although Kotzman doesn't entirely blame DCFS for "overlooking" what she called possible evidence of abuse, she wants more details about how the agency conducts its investigations, she said.

"I guess I want them to admit and be accountable and he didn't do that," Kotzman said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Tracy Kotzman's name.

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