JoAnn Cunningham, 36, and Andrew Freund Sr, 60, appeared in front of a judge on Thursday morning at the McHenry County jail charged with murdering their five-year-old son before reporting him missing
Facing multiple charges in the death and disappearance of their son AJ, judge sets bail at $5million each at their arraignment
Prosecutors allege the couple forced their son ‘to remain in a cold shower for an extended period of time’ and struck him repeatedly on Apr 15
Complaint states that they did so ‘knowing said acts would cause the death of [AJ]’ – Official cause of death will be determined by an autopsy taking place today
The parents told police on April 18 that AJ mysteriously vanished from their home in Crystal Lake, Illinois, after he went to bed the night before
The body of five-year-old Andrew ‘AJ’ Freund was found in rural area of Woodstock on Wednesday morning
Investigators were seen Wednesday collecting several items including a dirt-caked shovel, two brown bags, a plastic storage bin and a mattress from the couple’s home
AJ’s family has a troubling history with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services [DCFS]
DCFS which has been involved with the victim since birth, had reportedly visited the family’s home 17 separate times
His mother, Cunningham, was investigated by the DCFS in Dec after police discovered ‘unacceptable conditions’ at the home where AJ and his younger brother lived
Questions as to why AJ was allowed to remain with his parents despite DCFS awareness of the unsanitary conditions in the home and father’s record of cocaine and opioid abuse
Cunningham faces five counts of first-degree murder, four counts aggravated battery, two counts aggravated domestic battery and one count failure to report a missing or child death
Freund Sr faces five counts of first-degree murder, two counts aggravated battery, one count aggravated domestic battery, two counts concealment of a homicidal death and one count failure to report a missing child or child death
Divorce attorney Andrew Freund Sr met Cunningham in 2012 while handling her divorce
His license was suspended from October 13, 2015 until January 11, 2016, due to offenses related to when he represented her in the marriage dissolution case
A judge thursday morning set the bail at $5million each, for the parents of tragic Illinois boy, AJ Freund, whose body was discovered buried in a shallow grave in rural Illinois one week after he was reported missing.
JoAnn Cunningham, 36, and Andrew Freund Sr, 60, appeared in front of a judge on Thursday morning at the McHenry County jail, one day after they were hit with a slew of charges related to AJ’s death and disappearance of their five-year-old son, AJ Freund.
The pair allegedly forced their son ‘to remain in a cold shower for an extended period of time’ and struck him repeatedly on April 15 ‘knowing said acts would cause the death of [AJ]’, prosecutors said.
Andrew Freund Sr. allegedly buried his son the same day, and three days later on April 18 they told police he had vanished from his bed at their home in Crystal Lake.
Cunningham and Freund Sr, each issued desperate pleas for their son’s return as local law enforcement and the Federal agents to launch a sweeping six-day search for the presumed missing child.
Teams comb wooded area in search of missing Crystal Lake boy.
Investigators initially searched nearly 1,000 acres surrounding the family’s home using drones and scanned Crystal Lake with sonar and underwater cameras.
They brought in a canine team which picked up AJ’s scent at the house, indicating that he hadn’t walked away on foot.
Law enforcement said they did not send out an Amber Alert when AJ was first reported missing as there was no evidence to suggest he had been kidnapped from the home.
Cunningham, who is seven months pregnant, shook her head from side to side and choked back tears while the charges against her were read, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Freund Sr appeared after her and showed no emotion as he gripped the podium.
Judge Mark Gerhardt told both parents: ‘These are serious allegations,’ before setting the lofty bail. They would each have to post a 10 percent bond, or $500,000, to be released.
Police forensics team collecting evidence from the Freund’s home in Crystal Lake on April 24
The items removed from the house included a dirt-caked shovel, two brown bags, a plastic storage bin and a small mattress
Investigators located AJ’s body in Woodstock’s Hennen Conservation Area, [photo], using information provided by both parents as well as forensic cellphone data analysis
There is growing anger over why AJ was allowed to remain with his parents despite child services visiting the family home 17 times before his death.
The home was known to be filthy, while his lawyer father had his license revoked for a cocaine abuse conviction and sought therapy for an opioid problem.
Police reports relating to a separate matter reveal that officers making a wellness call on the home noted an ‘overwhelming smell of dog faeces and urine’ – and that the house was in ‘disrepair’ with living conditions ‘unacceptable.’
Bruises were noticed on one of the young boys in December but that the children appeared to be ‘healthy and happy’ and were not removed from the house, the reports state.
Failed by the system: AJ’s body was found wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave on Wednesday, in a rural area of Woodstock, Illinois, a few miles from the family’s home in Crystal Lake. DCFS visited his home 17in his lifetime but never removed him from the abusive home
Despite all this, no attempt was made in five years to remove AJ and his three-year-old brother, who was eventually removed from the home on April 19.
Illinois DCFS released the following statement after AJ’s death was announced: ‘After a nearly week-long search for missing Andrew “A.J.” Freund, law enforcement officials today confirmed his death. This news is heartbreaking.
‘Protecting vulnerable children who come to our attention is at the core of our mission at DCFS. All of us feel this loss. Our priority is the care and safety of Andrew’s younger sibling. We will continue to cooperate with law enforcement in their ongoing investigation.
‘The Department is committed to conducting a comprehensive review of the entirety of our work with Andrew’s family to understand our shortcomings and to be fully transparent with the public on any steps we are taking to address the issues.’
Mourners gather outside AJ’s home for a vigil after his body was discovered on Wednesday
Police visited AJ’s home 17 times before he went missing and found it was covered in dog feces.
Cunningham was arrested on the night AJ was reported missing for failure to appear in court on a charge of driving with a suspended license stemming from an incident in December.
According to the police reports, officers were dispatched to the home where Cunningham lived with AJ and his three-year-old brother on December 18 after the mother claimed that her prescription medication had been stolen.
Officer Nickolaus Trimpe wrote in a report that the living conditions at house were not ‘up to an acceptable standard’ and said there was ‘dog feces and urine scattered about’.
Officers observed several broken or open windows letting in frigid winter air and the lack of adequate heating in the residence that was ‘cluttered, dirty and in disrepair.’
The officers contacted the Department of Children and Family Services, which did not find neither evidence of abuse, nor the lack of adequate facilities for residents in the home.
Records show that child protective services had visited AJ’s home (above) on 17 occasions since his birth in 2013
Records show that child protective services had visited Freund’s home on 17 occasions since AJ’s birth in 2013.
In yet another incident one month earlier, officers responding to a call about a theft of prescription drugs reported that two adults at the home, believed to be Cunningham and Freund Sr, appeared to be under the influence of narcotics.
Freund Sr is a divorce attorney who met Cunningham in 2012 while handling her divorce. He had his license suspended from October 13, 2015 until January 11, 2016, due to offenses related to when he represented her in the marriage dissolution case.
After a court issued an injunction prohibiting Cunningham from taking any property from the marital home, she and Freund Sr allegedly went there anyway and took several items including televisions and silverware.
They were both subsequently convicted of indirect criminal contempt, according to disciplinary records.
Freund Sr was later diagnosed with opioid and cocaine use disorders and was ordered to attend a 12-step program as part of his probation.
Croc tears: Cunningham weeps as she pleads for the safe return of her son. she was charged Thursday with murder in his death – Speaking through her lawyer George Kililis [right] on Friday, she said she was ‘worried sick’ about her son and ‘had nothing to do with’ AJ’s disappearance
AJ’s mother ‘refused to cooperate with investigators’ after he went missing
Authorities claimed in a Monday press release that Cunningham hadn’t spoken to police since she first reported AJ missing on Thursday morning.
Cunningham’s lawyer George Kililis told reporters that she had ‘cooperated extensively with police until at some point we got the impression that she may be considered a suspect’, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
‘I don’t know whether she is or not and I don’t know how serious that consideration is,’ Kililis said of his client.
Cunningham’s attorney said the mother ‘doesn’t know what happened to AJ and had nothing to do with the disappearance of AJ’.
‘Ms Cunningham is worried sick,’ he added. ‘She is devastated.’
AJ’s father sent a direct message to his son, telling him to ‘please come home.’
‘We love you very much,’ he said. ‘You’re not in any trouble. We’re just worried to death. Please, please come home.’