Several lawmakers and the McHenry County “Roar for AJ” group will attend a rally Thursday at the Illinois State Capitol to bring awareness to child abuse.
State Representative Steve Reick (R-Woodstock), State Senator Craig Wilcox (R-McHenry) and Rep. Tom Weber (R-Lake Villa) will attend the rally, according to a statement.
The rally will take place on Thursday in the Capitol rotunda from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., marking the third anniversary of the death of AJ Freund, 5, of Crystal Lake.
The Roar for AJ advocacy group is aimed at helping bring change to the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services in AJ’s memory.
According to event organizer Tracy Kotzman, the group will display an empty pair of children’s shoes for each Illinois child who has died despite involvement with DCFS.
The display is open to the public and is meant to honor AJ and all children who died as a result of abuse in their homes.
“I continue to put forth solutions to my Democratic counterparts and have held over a dozen press conferences and roundtable discussions to advocate for much needed reforms to this system,” Reick said.
“I hope we can start addressing the root causes at this agency to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable Illinoisans,” he said.
Prosecutors said that AJ died at some point in the evening of April 14, 2019, after his mother, JoAnn Cunningham, had beaten him and placed him in a cold shower.
AJ was put to bed and later found dead, prosecutors said. AJ’s father, Andrew Freund Sr., put AJ’s remains in a large plastic tote in the basement and days later buried the remains in a rural area outside of Woodstock.
Cunningham, who is serving a 35-year prison sentence for killing AJ, recently filed a post-conviction petition, saying that she had been seeing demons and believed she and her son were possessed at the time of the killing.