MCHENRY COUNTY, Ill. — The trial for two former Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) workers accused of child endangerment entered its third day Wednesday.
The multiple felony charges filed in Sept. 2020 against Andrew Polovin and Carlos Acosta stem from the April 2019 death of five-year-old Andrew “AJ” Freund of Crystal Lake. They are accused of having known Freund’s life was in danger four months earlier yet not taking action.
The state’s expert witness – retired DCFS area administrator Carol Ruzicka – was grilled during cross-examination. Defense attorneys argued the bruise seen on Freund’s hip in December 2018 wasn’t a severe enough injury to keep him in protective custody.
In 2013, when Freund was born, DCFS removed him from his mother, JoAnn Cunningham’s custody, because he was born with opiates in his system.
During trial this week, case worker Carlos Acosta was criticized by the retired area administrator for not thoroughly reviewing past DCFS contacts, police reports, or medical records for Cunningham.
Defense attorneys say Acosta juggled 20-plus cases at a time, over the 12-15 mandated in a DCFS consent decree.
The defense argued the goal and/or motivation of DCFS was to keep children with their parents, adding that Acosta and Polovin, his supervisor, shouldn’t be held criminally liable for Freund’s murder.
Two child abuse experts with the Children’s Advocacy Center in McHenry County also testified on Wednesday but were not allowed to be filmed. Experts said that the bruise seen on Freund’s hip was unlikely to have been caused by a dog, also noting four bruises on his torso.
The expert labeled the bruises as ‘pattern injuries’ because of their location, grouping and clustering.
The bench trial began on Monday with the McHenry County State’s Attorney providing an opening statement for the prosecution, and separate attorneys providing statements for each of the defendants. Tuesday’s proceedings were occupied entirely by the state’s fourth witness, Carol Ruzicka. Ruzicka is a retired DCFS regional administrator who testified for the prosecution as an expert in regard to DCFS procedures.
The trial is expected to take approximately one week.