Local and state officials reacted Wednesday to the death of Andrew “AJ” Freund, whose body was found by police Wednesday near Woodstock.
Jack Franks, D-Marengo, and McHenry County Board chairman
“There are no words to convey the heartache McHenry County feels over the death of 5-year-old Andrew ‘AJ’ Freund.
“In the week since his disappearance from his Crystal Lake home, little AJ belonged to all of us. The men and women of law enforcement searched for him like he was their own. We all prayed he would be found safe and held out hope despite a constant and dismaying stream of police reports and news stories detailing the squalid conditions in which he lived. Our hopes were dashed today with the discovery of his body south of Woodstock.
“Words also cannot convey the anger we feel that AJ’s own parents stand accused of killing him, and it is my hope that they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law and that AJ’s siblings are placed in safe and loving homes.
“The Department of Children and Family Services had a long history of contact with the family throughout AJ’s short life – he spent his first 20 months in foster care after he was born with opiates in his system. Although it is too early to jump to conclusions, it must be asked whether opportunities to prevent this tragedy were missed. We owe it to AJ, and to every other at-risk child, to review the Illinois child welfare system to ensure that no child ever falls through the safety net.
“I would like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, the men and women of the Crystal Lake Police Department, the Crystal Lake Fire Department, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office, the Illinois State Police, the FBI and every other law enforcement agency who tirelessly searched for little AJ, as well as the people of Crystal Lake and McHenry County for their outpouring of support and prayers.”
State Rep. Steve Reick, R-Woodstock
“The discovery of AJ Freund’s remains has sent shockwaves through McHenry County and all of Illinois. While this tragedy shines a negative light on Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services, on a larger scale this latest incident underscores the growing need for Springfield lawmakers to do a better job of prioritizing and appropriating funds. If the true purpose of government is to provide services to the most vulnerable among us, legislators need to look long and hard at how and where we are appropriating money. We must take care of those who cannot take care of themselves, and that includes children, who through no fault of their own sometimes find themselves at risk in their own homes.
“DCFS processes must be examined top to bottom to determine where the breakdown in protective services is occurring. DCFS must also let legislators know exactly what they need so that instances such as this can be prevented. We must work together to improve outcomes for children at risk. That work must begin immediately, and it must include an honest discussion of Springfield’s spending priorities.”
State Rep. Tom Weber, R-Lake Villa
“My heart goes out to the Crystal Lake community over the loss of young AJ Freund. While nothing can lessen the pain of this terrible tragedy, I am grateful to the tireless efforts of the law enforcement community, and I pray that the community may find peace in knowing that AJ’s suffering is now over.”
State Rep. David McSweeney, R-Barrington Hills (On Twitter)
“We need to restore the death penalty in Illinois! A sweet, innocent five year old was murdered by monsters that he trusted.”