Crime & Courts

Neighbors support demolition of 94 Dole Ave. house

Property, mold inspections reveal stray needles, black mold

As city employees work to restore the property where two parents allegedly beat and killed their son, AJ Freund, the Crystal Lake home’s interior could be a health risk to anyone who enters.

A May inspection of the property at 94 Dole Ave. revealed the presence of black mold in the basement at more than 11 times the “elevated” rate, lab results show. The city has asked to demolish the property rather than spend more than $100,000 to bring it up to code. Several neighbors have expressed interest in buying the property, demolishing it or erecting a memorial park, according to emails obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

In the meantime, the property remains tied up in ongoing foreclosure litigation while the homeowners, JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr., await trial on first-degree murder charges tied to the death of their 5-year-old son.

Photographs of the house’s interior have raised questions about whether the squalid conditions presented an immediate danger to AJ and his younger brother, who now is in the care of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Last summer, the parents were issued several sanitation condition violations for failure to maintain the property, according to a May court filing in which the city of Crystal Lake sought to inspect the house.

Among the long list of property violations noted at the home were hypodermic needles that had been stuck into a discarded sofa in the backyard, according to the city’s court filing. Inspectors also noted more than 30 used, uncapped, exposed hypodermic needles inside a thin plastic bag in front of the sofa.

On May 23, a McHenry County judge granted an administrative search warrant allowing the city to enter the house to determine its stability and estimate the amount of degradation that had occurred throughout the years. Inside, officials observed water damage in several rooms, mold throughout the house, and elevated levels of black mold in the basement.

“Standing water was detected in the basement,” Healthy Home Mold Inspection employees wrote in an 11-page report. “Multiple areas of visual mold growth was detected on items throughout the basement. Visual growth was also detected on the basement ceiling joints.”

The toxins produced by black mold can suppress a person’s immune system and affect their tissues and bone marrow, according to the South-Carolina-based lab that tested the mold swabs.

Removing the mold would cost about $7,830, the company estimated. Black mold rarely is found outdoors and typically doesn’t become airborne unless it is physically disturbed, according to the report.

“Based on mold tests and visual inspection it is my professional opinion that a qualified remediation company be contracted to perform mold remediation at the property in question,” according to the mold inspectors’ report. “Anyone in the property needs to wear masks and not touch moldy materials without wearing gloves.”

Neighbors on Sunday said they hadn’t experienced any health problems related to the boarded-up house, which has been vacant since Freund and Cunningham were arrested.

In April, police arrested JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr. in connection with the death of their son, AJ Freund. In that time, the city’s public works department has tended to the property, where weeds, garbage bags and a sedentary car served as public nuisances, according to city code violations against the pair. A lien is placed on the property each time the city performs maintenance, Michelle Rentzch, the city’s community development director, has said.

On July 10, the city of Crystal Lake additionally filed a complaint seeking to demolish the property, bringing its value to about $11,000, according to the complaint. Demolishing the home and ridding of the mold would cost an estimated $17,000; alternatively, it would cost $103,290 to bring the home within city code, according to one Crystal Lake construction company’s estimate.

Necessary repairs would include removing and replacing the roof and gutters, removing padlocks from interior doors, removing and replacing two toilets, and installing a new sump pump, according to the estimate.

The house was boarded up May 2 and on May 16, a cleanup crew removed biohazardous material from the property, including the needles found on the lawn, invoices show.

Attorneys have said no one is allowed inside the home unless authorized while Freund and Cunningham still are the owners.

Mortgage lender 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. Progar’s attorney, Jonathan Kaman, has said he isn’t sure if Progar has plans for the property.

The foreclosure matter is scheduled for an Aug. 8 hearing in McHenry County court.

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