In a recent verdict that has garnered significant attention, a former state child welfare worker has been found guilty of child endangerment in connection with the tragic 2019 beating death of a 5-year-old boy, Andrew “AJ” Freund, by his mother, JoAnn Cunningham. However, the judge acquitted the man’s supervisor in this heart-wrenching case that unfolded in suburban Chicago.

Illinois Former Child Welfare Worker Found Guilty of Child Endangerment in Connection with Tragic 2019 Beating Death
Illinois Former Child Welfare Worker Found Guilty of Child Endangerment in Connection with Tragic 2019 Beating Death

Lake County Judge George Strickland delivered the verdict, convicting Carlos Acosta, aged 57 and a case investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, of child endangerment. However, Strickland cleared Acosta of a reckless conduct charge, stating that he could not determine the extent of his supervisor, Andrew Polovin’s, knowledge about the abuse inflicted on young AJ Freund.

The tragic events leading to this verdict took place in April 2019 when AJ Freund lost his life due to severe abuse at the hands of his mother. JoAnn Cunningham was sentenced to 35 years in prison for her role in his murder. The boy’s father, Andrew Freund Sr., was also sentenced to 30 years in prison for covering up the crime by burying AJ’s body in a field.

Acosta and Polovin were accused of neglecting numerous warning signs of the child’s abuse, sparking public outrage and questions about the effectiveness of the state’s child welfare system.

Polovin’s attorney, Matthew McQuaid, expressed gratitude for the verdict and mentioned that he had never believed his client had committed a crime. He also shared that Polovin, who had been terminated from his state position, now works in a different field.

The tragic incident that led to AJ’s death involved his mother, JoAnn Cunningham, becoming enraged over his soiled underwear, which he had tried to conceal. She subjected the young boy to a cold shower for at least 20 minutes, struck him in the head with the showerhead, and then put him to bed in a cold, wet, and naked state, as authorities revealed.

AJ’s lifeless body was eventually discovered wrapped in plastic in a shallow grave near the family’s home in Crystal Lake.

This case highlights the critical need for child welfare agencies to recognize and address signs of abuse promptly and effectively, ensuring the safety and well-being of vulnerable children. The verdict, while holding one individual accountable, also raises questions about the broader child protection system and the responsibility of those tasked with safeguarding young lives.

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