2 ex-child welfare workers face charges in slain boy case

National

This Thursday, Sept. 10, 2020 booking photo provided by the McHenry County, Ill., Sheriff’s Office, shows Carlos J. Acosta, one of two child welfare workers who investigated abuse allegations involving a 5-year-old boy allegedly killed months later by his parents, has been charged with child endangerment. Acosta, 54, of Woodstock, and his former supervisor, 48-year-old Andrew Polovin of Island Lake, were arrested Thursday on two counts each of endangering the life of a child and one count of reckless conduct. (McHenry County Sheriff’s Office via AP)

WOODSTOCK, Ill. (AP) — Two former Illinois child welfare workers who investigated abuse allegations involving a 5-year-old boy allegedly killed months later by his parents have been charged with child endangerment.

Carlos Acosta, an elected McHenry County board member from Woodstock, and his former supervisor, Andrew Polovin of Island Lake, were arrested Thursday on two counts each of endangering the life of a child and one count of reckless conduct, the McHenry County sheriff’s office announced.

Acosta, 54, and Polovin, 48, were released later Thursday from the McHenry County Jail after posting bond, jail records show.

The Associated Press left a telephone message Friday for Acosta seeking comment from him or an attorney on the charges. A telephone number couldn’t immediately be found for Polovin to request comment.

The men left the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services in December following a lengthy internal disciplinary process after Andrew “A.J.” Freund was found dead in a shallow grave near his family’s Crystal Lake home in April 2019, days after his parents reported him missing.

The boy’s parents, Andrew Freund and Joann Cunningham, were charged with first-degree murder in his beating death. Cunningham, 36, pleaded guilty in December to first-degree murder and was sentenced last month to 35 years in prison. Andrew Freund, 60, is awaiting trial.

DCFS spokesman Bill McCaffery declined to comment Thursday on the criminal charges against Acosta and Polovin, noting that the case is an ongoing investigation being handled by another agency.

Further details about the allegations were not immediately available. But McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally told the Northwest Herald that a grand jury approved the charges against the men Thursday. He declined to say what evidence was presented to the grand jury, but said the joint investigation with police had been underway to some extent since AJ’s death.

Acosta was the child protection specialist assigned to investigate a December 2018 hotline call from Crystal Lake police regarding a bruise on AJ’s right hip. The boy gave various statements about the cause of his injury, including that the family’s dog had pawed him, but he also told an emergency room doctor, “Maybe mommy didn’t mean to hurt me.”

Acosta deemed the allegation of abuse unfounded about two weeks later after consulting with Polovin, who also was the supervisor in two earlier hotline investigations involving AJ, records show.

After the child’s death, an investigation alleged that he had been subjected to a pattern of abuse by his parents, culminating in his death while padlocked inside his bedroom with swelling in his brain.

DCFS officials have declined to say whether Acosta and Polovin were fired or quit. But former DCFS Inspector General Meryl Paniak had recommended their termination for their handling of the December 2018 hotline investigation.

According to a May search warrant affidavit that also referenced Acosta, Polovin allowed protective custody of AJ to lapse before conducting a proper investigation into the bruise on AJ’s hip, the Northwest Herald reported. Polivin is also accused of omitting a corresponding Crystal Lake police report, medical records and home safety checklist from AJ’s December 2018 file.

Acosta, who had been with the department for about 25 years before his firing, has said he followed DCFS procedures during the 2018 investigation.

Acosta and Polovin are named in a federal lawsuit filed on behalf of the slain boy’s estate, which represents his three siblings. That complaint alleges that the former state employees showed “an inhumane indifference to AJ’s safety” in their handling of the December 2018 hotline investigation.

The lawsuit contends that Acosta and Polovin conducted and approved “sham investigations” that “returned AJ right back into the claws of his abusers.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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