CRYSTAL LAKE — As Crystal Lake police continued to search for 5-year-old Andrew "AJ" Freund two days after he was reported missing, authorities say the boy's parents have stopped cooperating with them.
Investigators are following up on "hundreds of tips," Crystal Lake police Chief Jim Black said Saturday. "This is still an ongoing investigation," Black said.
Police have said they don't believe the 5-year-old was abducted, but the father and the boy's mother — who attended a candlelight vigil Saturday night — were not cooperating with the investigation. Black described the whole situation of a child missing in Crystal Lake as being "disturbing."
"The fact that both parents have stopped cooperating with us certainly raises our suspicions," Black said.
Black said no arrests have been made, and the father, also named Andrew Freund, was back home after he was escorted away about 1 p.m. Saturday with plainclothes police officers. He was not in handcuffs when he entered a black unmarked police car with them.
Officers inside the police station about 1:15 p.m. declined to say why Freund was there or if he was under arrest.
But shortly before 5 p.m., Freund left the police station out its back door, carrying a small white bag. He lit up a cigarette and began briskly walking to his home, a short distance away.
"Nothing definitive yet," he told a reporter who was asking what happened at the police station and if he had learned anymore about the whereabouts of his son. "Pray for the safe return of my son," Freund said.
Freund kept walking as reporters mobbed him, asking how he's been making it through the last few days.
"Hell. It's been hell. Hell on earth."
Freund and JoAnn Cunningham, the boy's mom, who is seven months pregnant, both attended a community vigil named "Light the Way for AJ," which was held at Crystal Lake Main Beach, 300 Lakeshore Drive, on Saturday night.
At least 200 people, several of whom were families and their children, showed up for the vigil, which was organized through Facebook.
The parents appeared to arrive separately.
"There are no words, there are no words, there are no words," Freund, with a T-shirt over a long-sleeved shirt, mumbled quietly to a reporter.
A priest from Andrew's church, the Rev. Jerome Koutnik, delivered remarks. Several people, including some children, lined up to receive candles and sign a large cardboard display.
After saying prayers and asking the crowd to pray for the family, Koutnik hugged Freund.
When Cunningham arrived, clad in black leggings, a pink baseball cap pulled down low over a ponytail and one of AJ's blankies wrapped around her neck , well-wishers hugged and encircled her. Elizabeth Vonau, who is a lawyer for Cunningham, turned around and said thank you to all who attended the vigil for their support.
Freund then stood nearby, watching Cunningham interact before the whole group walked into the parking lot to leave.
At one point, Freud and Cunningham briefly embraced, and Cunningham appeared emotional.
Freund walked back to his home alone, smoking a cigarette, and went inside.
Tracy Calhoun, who moved to Crystal Lake last year, has young children and said she helped organize the vigil to show "solidarity" and support for the missing boy.
Of his disappearance, Calhoun, who does not know the family, said, "It's terrifying."
"This is not typical to this community. It is very sad. I just hope we find some resolution soon. My heart goes out to Andrew."
Andrew was last seen at bedtime, about 9 p.m. Wednesday in the family home in the first block of Dole Avenue in the northwest suburb. After waking up Thursday morning and being unable to find him in the home, Andrew's parents reported him missing.
Andrew has blond hair and was wearing a Mario sweatshirt and black sweatpants when he was last seen. He is about 3 feet 5 inches tall and weighs about 70 pounds.
Neighbors have said the father was out in front of his home earlier Saturday.
A neighbor said he had come out of the house and hugged a woman who came to lay flowers down near the home and Freund asked the neighbor to pray.
Black said the evidence police have collected so far "doesn't support an unknown offender, and there is no evidence to say an abduction occurred."
Police are following up with anyone known to have had any contact with AJ or last saw him.
Black said police returned to the house Friday "based on new information (they) obtained," and he couldn't say whether they would go back to the house again but added, "If we need to go back in, we will."
Black asked that the community continue to contact the police department with any information and to keep an eye out. Officers have covered hundreds of acres in and around the area, and will continue to do so.
"Things like this don't happen in Crystal Lake," Black said. "We take it very seriously. We are acting on everything that comes in at this point. We are hoping we can find him."
On Friday afternoon, local defense attorney George Kililis said he is representing Cunningham.
Kililis said the mother is "depressed" and "sad."
"She is devastated. She's worried. ... All she cares about is her little boy. That's it," Kililis said
Kililis said he told her not to say anything after it appeared during questioning on Thursday that police seemed to be accusing her.
DCFS, which has the job of protecting children from abuse, released the following statement Friday: "The department's involvement with Andrew Freund began with his birth in 2013 and continued on and off through the end of 2018. The last contact between DCFS child protection staff and Andrew's family was in December of 2018 while investigating allegations of abuse and neglect."
The home was searched by dozens of law enforcement officials Thursday and again Friday.
Late Friday, state child welfare officials released information about the family of the boy since he was born in 2013 with opiates in his system. DCFS continued having contact off and on until late 2018, a spokesman said.
On Thursday, Andrew's younger brother was placed in another home under a DCFS safety plan.
DCFS released a timeline highlighting interactions between DCFS and Andrew's family:
- In October 2013, DCFS investigated an allegation of neglect by the mother and found there was credible evidence to substantiate the allegation. Andrew was born with opiates in his body.
- The following month, DCFS took Andrew into protective custody. He was placed in a foster home and not returned to his own home until June 2015. The case was closed in April 2016.
- In March 2018, DCFS investigated allegations of neglect by the father and mother, but concluded they were unfounded. The mother agreed to re-enter treatment.
- On Dec. 18, 2018, DCFS investigated another allegation of abuse and neglect by the mother, and the boy was temporarily removed by police, but he was returned to the home after the allegations were ruled unfounded. There was no evidence to support allegations of deplorable conditions in the home, and bruising on the child was attributed to the dog.
After a daylong search Thursday came up fruitless, police Friday in a news release said: "In reviewing all investigative information thus far, there is no indication that would lead police to believe that an abduction had taken place." They also said: "Information obtained currently has police focusing on his residence."
Canine teams that "only picked up Andrew's scent within the residence indicated that Andrew had not walked away on foot," police said.
A neighbor who lives across the street said the boy's father left the home through a back door about 2 p.m. Friday and began walking down Dole Avenue. While walking he said, "Find my son ... find my son," according to neighbor Janelle Butler.
Butler said police approached him and tried to keep others away from him, but not before he made a plea to media members who were at the scene.
"AJ, please come home," he said. "We love you very much. You're not in any trouble. We're just worried to death. Please, please come home."
Authorities ask anyone with information to call the Crystal Lake Police Department, 815-356-3620. Anyone with a cellphone who has information regarding the child can send an anonymous tip to the department by texting the word CLPDTIP along with the tip to 847411 (tip411).