City of Crystal Lake seeks to demolish Dole Avenue home where AJ Freund was allegedly beaten to death

Authorities say it was where AJ Freund’s parents beat him to death

The city of Crystal Lake has filed a complaint with McHenry County seeking to demolish the dilapidated home at 94 Dole Ave. in which a 5-year-old boy allegedly was beaten to death by his parents.

The boarded-up home is “dangerous and unsafe,” according to the complaint filed Wednesday at the McHenry County Courthouse.

The owners of the home – Andrew Freund, 60, and JoAnn Cunningham, 36 – were charged with murder in April in connection with the death of their son, AJ Freund. Authorities said the couple beat the boy, forced him to stand in a freezing shower and put him to bed “wet, cold and naked.”

The child, who was the focus of many police and child welfare contacts, died April 15, authorities have said. Three days later, Freund buried him in a shallow grave near Woodstock, then made a false 911 call to report AJ missing, police said.

For about a week, residents, Crystal Lake police, the FBI and multiple police agencies searched for him.

After he was found wrapped in plastic in a shallow grave, the couple was arrested and charged. Each is being held in the McHenry County Jail on $5 million bond. They have pleaded not guilty.

According to the complaint filed Wednesday, it would cost more than $100,000 to bring the home within city code. Since the couple’s arrest, city crews have boarded up the windows and doors, painted the boards white and tended to the overgrown lawn and trees.

Crystal Lake, in addition to other entities, has thousands of dollars in liens against the property, according to the complaint. Crystal Lake has more than $11,000 in fees and fines against the property. Some of them date to 2018, when the family, which included AJ’s younger brother, still lived in the home. AJ’s younger brother has since been placed with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, as has a baby girl, whom Cunningham gave birth to after her arrest.

After the home is demolished and the costs of the demolition are factored in, the property would be valued at about $11,000, according to the complaint.

A conference date on the complaint has been set for Oct. 9. However, Crystal Lake special counsel David Pardys, who drafted the complaint, said the set date does not mean a hearing or demolition could not take place before then.

He could not give details when reached for comment Friday.

“There is a process we are going through,” Pardys said. “By going through this process, we will, at some point, get to this hearing, and a ruling will be made. I can’t predict that ruling.”

The “property must be demolished,” as it stands in violation of municipal codes, according to the complaint, which also stated the best future use of the site would be as a single-family home.

A notice addressed to the couple and dated June 24 said the homeowners had 15 days before the city would seek a demolition order. The letter, signed by Crystal Lake Building Commissioner Mike Magnussen, said Freund and Cunningham were given hard copies of the violations notice in jail.

Magnussen inspected the property Wednesday and determined the structure and premises remained dangerous and unsafe, as well as “constitute an attractive nuisance,” according to the complaint.

The list of violations cited in the complaint regarding the once pristine two-story, white Cape Cod home is lengthy.

Those violations include positive interior mold levels in amounts above what is considered elevated, in addition to mouse droppings, interior locks on the doors, and missing sections of plaster and drywall. Other violations include mold on the kitchen, master bedroom and basement ceilings; missing flooring and subflooring in the kitchen; garbage and debris throughout the house; a broken toilet on the first floor; a leaky water heater; and a furnace that has outlived its usefulness.

The list also includes missing tiles in an upstairs bathroom tub/shower; damaged and inoperable windows and doors; damaged or missing gutters; damaged and missing soffit and fascia; missing bricks in the chimney; damaged and missing roof shingles; and peeling, flaking paint.

There are other people named in the complaint, including the mortgage holder. Freund and Cunningham still have the right to fight the demolition.

Janelle Butler, who lives across the street, said the sooner the house is torn down, the better.

“It’s just getting worse-looking by the day. I can’t even imagine with this heat how bad it is on the inside,” Butler said.

On Friday, she said there were some pinwheels and balloons still on the property that had been put up during the Fourth of July parade. Blue ribbons in honor of the child still are tied to the trees outside.

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