The house at 94 Dole Ave. in Crystal Lake stands out in its dilapidated state among the neat lawns and well-kept houses on the neighboring lots.
The white, two-story house where AJ Freund once lived with his parents and younger brother remained in an unkempt condition Thursday, with boards and tarps covering the windows and doors.
By Saturday, those boards on the exterior of the home had been painted white.
Throughout the neighborhood and online, community members have suggested the city demolish the “house of horrors,” while a group of lenders and a private real estate investor are seeking foreclosure of the property.
Police records and court documents have offered a glimpse at the squalid conditions inside the home, where parents Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham reportedly gave their son “hard physical beatings.” Officers reported seeing cockroaches among piles of garbage and laundry inside the house when AJ was reported missing April 18.
On April 24, Freund admitted to investigators that AJ actually had died days earlier on April 15. Freund then rode with police to a rural area near Woodstock, where investigators discovered AJ’s body wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave, court records show.
Lenders Homes Sites LLC initially sought foreclosure of Freund’s property in July 2018. The mortgage and promissory note were sold in May, however, to real estate investor William Progar and the lenders now are attempting to bow out of litigation. Progar and Home Sites’ attorney, Jonathan Kaman, said he isn’t sure if Progar has plans for the property.
It’s unclear how long the foreclosure process could take, particularly since matters were further delayed last week, when the the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission filed a petition to suspend Freund’s law license. Until Thursday, Freund represented Cunningham as her attorney in the foreclosure case.
“I’m not sure if I expect [Freund] to just roll over and go away,” Kaman said.
The longer civil litigation takes, the longer it could be until anything is done with the property. No one is permitted to enter the home without Freund’s permission as long as he remains the owner.
Although Home Sites previously had the authority to secure and weatherize the home, the company has opted to leave the house in its current condition, Kaman said.
“My client has chosen not to take part in any of that sort of stuff,” Kaman said. “... I think they just don’t want to tread into that.”
Earlier this month, Freund gave the city of Crystal Lake permission to remove debris, laundry and furniture that the city considered a public nuisance outside the home. Crystal Lake ordinance violations filed against Freund in May claimed the property was not “in a clean, safe, and sanitary” condition.
Freund also gave them permission to remove Cunningham’s vehicle, which had a flat tire and no front license plate, court documents show. The vehicle has since been removed.
The city’s public works department will continue to maintain the property’s lawn and bushes while Freund and Cunningham are in jail on $3 million bond each. The labor comes at a cost, meaning the pair will incur fines each time city workers go out to perform maintenance, Crystal Lake Director of Community Development Michelle Rentzsch has said.
The city has filed three separate public nuisance ordinance violations against Freund and Cunningham since they have been detained at the McHenry County Jail, public records show.
Neither Rentzsch nor Crystal Lake Mayor Aaron Shepley could be reached to comment on future action or plans for the property.