AJ Freund

Former DCFS Worker Charged in AJ Freund Case Pleads Not Guilty

Andrew Polovin and Carlos Acosota were involved in an investigation of AJ Freund, who was found dead in April 2019

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One of two former Illinois Department of Children and Family Services employees who oversaw AJ Freund’s case has pleaded not guilty to charges following the 5-year-old Crystal Lake boy's tragic death.

Andrew Polovin appeared before a judge Thursday after being released on bond last week. He is next expected to appear on Oct. 29.

Polovin and fellow employee Carlos Acosta were both arrested and released on $20,000 bonds Friday, the sheriff's office said. Acosta is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 24.

Polovin, 48, of Island Lake, and Acosta, 54 of Woodstock, were charged with two felony counts of endangering the life of a child and one felony count of reckless conduct. Both were taken into custody without incident and transported to the McHenry County Correctional Facility, sheriff's officials said.

In Dec. 2019, the department confirmed the employees in question, Acosta and his supervisor, Polovin, left the agency after a lengthy internal investigation.

Both were involved in an investigation of Andrew “AJ” Freund, who was found wrapped in plastic and buried in a remote location in the northwest suburb of Woodstock, just miles from the Crystal Lake home where his parents had reported the boy missing the week before. Prior to his death, AJ had extensive contact with the child welfare agency.

The boy's parents, Joann Cunningham and Andrew Freund, were arrested and initially charged on Apr. 24, 2019, the same day AJ was found. Cunningham pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to 35 years in prison in July. Attorneys representing Freund said in late August that a plea deal was possible in the next few weeks.

When reached by NBC 5 late Thursday, Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for DCFS, said he had "no comment" about the arrests.

Acosta was the child protection specialist assigned to check a December 2018 call from Crystal Lake police about a bruise on Freund's right hip. The boy gave varying explanations for the injury, including that the family dog had done it during play. But records show he also told an emergency room doctor, “Maybe mommy didn't mean to hurt me.”

Acosta said in December that he followed protocol in not going back to question the child about the bruise and that the child's injuries didn't meet the threshold to get a second opinion from a pediatric specialist.

Acosta previously said he's emotionally torn but stands by his decisions.

"I don't deny the fact that I was there four months before and that's something that I'm going to have to live with forever," Acosta told Shaw Media Illinois in an interview late last year. “And again, should have, could have, would have. Did I still follow the policy and weigh the evidence that I had at the time? Yes.”

Polovin hasn't spoken publicly about the case.

NBC Chicago/Associated Press
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