City officials hope to know by the end of the year whether they can demolish the Crystal Lake home where the parents of 5-year-old AJ Freund are accused of beating and killing their young son.
Although, Andrew Freund Sr., 60, and JoAnn Cunningham, 36, usually are shackled and accompanied by several guards during their courtroom appearances, neither was handcuffed Wednesday when they appeared in a McHenry County civil courtroom.
Freund, Cunningham and several others with claims to the property at 94 Dole Ave. were granted more time to respond to the city’s petition to demolish the dilapidated house. The recently foreclosed property will go to auction before the city can argue its demolition request, however. Whoever places the winning bid could become a party to the ongoing civil matters, to which more than $100,000 in liens and defaulted loan payments are tied. Several bodies already have their hands in the pot, including the city of Crystal Lake, Freund, Cunningham, the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s and Treasurer’s offices, and the current mortgage holder – a private real estate investor named William Progar.
The city filed its complaint July 10 seeking to tear down the boarded-up single-family home where AJ was reportedly subjected to long, cold showers as punishment, court records show. David Goles, one of the attorneys who represents Crystal Lake in the civil case, asked a judge Wednesday to grant the demolition request, since none of the 10 named defendants had filed a response.
The matter was continued to Nov. 27, when each of the involved parties is expected to have filed their responses to the demolition request.
Tearing down the house would bring the property value to about $11,000, according to the city’s July complaint. The process of demolishing the property and ridding it of an identified mold infestation would cost an estimated $17,000. Alternatively, it would cost about $103,290 to bring the home within city code, according to one Crystal Lake construction company’s estimate.
If the city’s request is granted, Goles said the city hopes to be reimbursed for the cost of demolition by placing an additional lien on the property.
Attempts to foreclose on the property began in 2018 when lenders Home Sites LLC filed a petition citing defaulted payments in the amount of $98,909. The lenders subsequently backed out of the proceedings when Progar bought the mortgage from them. In July, McHenry County Judge Suzanne Mangiemele granted the foreclosure request, marking the beginning of a three-month redemption period, during which Freund and Cunningham could try to win back their property by paying the $107,536 owed in liens and unpaid property taxes.
Otherwise, the house will go to bid at a public auction at 1 p.m. Nov. 21. The auction will take place at the NLT Title office at 390 Congress Parkway, Suite D, Crystal Lake, according to an online listing.
Attorneys couldn’t say Thursday whether anyone has expressed real interest in the property or how much the land could sell for. Updated information about a possible opening bid amount and sale details will be posted online at www.tjsc.com when it is available. Once a winning bid is placed, a judge would then need to approve the sale before the foreclosure is final.
Freund and Cunningham each are charged with first-degree murder and and a handful of other felony offenses in connection with AJ’s death. Police believe the parents falsely reported their son missing April 18, knowing the boy had actually died in their home days earlier, court records show.
On the morning of April 24, Freund reportedly led police to a rural area near Woodstock where he buried AJ’s body in a shallow grave, records show.
Civil hearings related to the house and the custody of Cunningham’s two younger children mark the rare times Freund and Cunningham are permitted to be in the same room. They have been kept separate since their arrests. As of Wednesday, they remain the only people authorized to enter the property, aside from the city workers who regularly mow the lawn and trim the bushes.
In June, 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.
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. Freund is due back in court Thursday morning on all three alleged violations.
The city’s public works department will continue to maintain the property’s lawn and bushes while Freund and Cunningham are in jail, but the labor comes at a cost. Each time city workers perform maintenance, Freund and Cunningham are fined.
The pair remained at the McHenry County jail Wednesday morning, each on $5 million bond. Cunningham and Freund are scheduled to make court appearances in their criminal cases Oct. 17 and Oct. 24, respectively.