MCHENRY COUNTY, IL — The parents of AJ Freund have pleaded not guilty to allegations that they killed their 5-year-old son. A grand jury formally indicted the parents of AJ Freund, charging Andrew Freund Sr. and Joann Cunningham with first-degree murder, aggravated battery and endangering the life a child on Thursday. Additional charges of unlawful restraint, abuse of a corpse, obstructing justice and aggravated domestic battery have also been filed in McHenry County, court records show.
Freund and Cunningham appeared in court Friday where they pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to media reports.
The grand jury indictment filed Thursday sheds some new light on the alleged abuse leveled against AJ Freund prior to his death. Cunningham, 36, and Freund, 60, are both accused of recklessly and repeatedly striking AJ and detaining him by placing him in “time outs” for periods of multiple hours or longer on or between Sept. 20, 2018, and April 17, 2019, according to the grand jury indictment. Additional battery charges filed in the indictment stem from an incident on March 4 where AJ was struck, causing bodily harm to the boy.
The most serious charges filed in the indictment, three counts of first-degree murder, carry a potential life imprisonment sentence. Cunningham and Freund also face charges of aggravated battery, unlawful restraint and endangering the health of a child in connection with AJ’s death, which allegedly occurred on or between April 15 and April 17.
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Cunningham and Freund are being held at the McHenry County Jail on $5 million bond and are accused of beating AJ and forcing him to stay in a cold shower on or between April 15 and April 17. AJ died of severe head trauma. Freund is accused of allegedly burying AJ’s body in a shallow grave near Woodstock.
More charges filed Thursday relate to the couple’s actions following AJ’s death. Both are charged with failure to report a missing child or child’s death for not reporting AJ’s death to law enforcement within 24 hours after he died, according to court records. They are also charged with concealment of a death for knowingly moving the body of a dead person “with the intent of concealing information regarding the place or manner of death,” and with abuse of a corpse for removing or carrying AJ’s body even though they were “not authorized by law to do so.”
Obstructing justice charges filed related to allegations that Cunningham and Freund initially reported AJ missing, even though they knew he was dead, and misleading the Crystal Lake Police Department as they searched for days for the 5-year-old boy.
Joann Cunningham Grand Jury Indictment
Andrew Freund Grand Jury Indictment
Patch.com has detailed in recent weeks the encounters AJ’s parents had with DCFS during his short life. AJ was placed in foster care with a relative after he was born with opiates and benzodiazepines in his system. After 18 months, AJ was returned to his parents care and DCFS made 26 visits to the home where they reported no signs of abuse or neglect.
The family went almost two years without any contact with DCFS until calls started coming in again, starting in March 2018, regarding “odd bruising” on AJ’s face and dog feces on the floor at the home. AJ made a comment to a doctor examining him in December 2018: “Maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe Mommy didn’t mean to hurt me.”
The problems at 94 Dole Avenue were not new. Before AJ was born, his older brother, who is now 18 years old, lived in squalor and witnessed violent acts between Andrew Freund Sr. and Joann Cunningham. In 2012, Cunningham’s mother filed for custody of the child after Joann dropped him off with her in August 2012. Andrew Freund Sr. and Joann Cunningham reportedly met around that same time when Andrew Freund Sr. represented during Cunningham’s divorce and Cunningham moved into his home on Dole Avenue in Crystal Lake.