Crystal Lake parents charged with murder of child

Derek Swanson, News Editor

The parents of five-year-old Andrew “AJ” Freund have been charged with murder and other related crimes after their son was found dead a week after his reported disappearance. AJ’s body was found by police in a bag placed in a field in Woodstock, Illinois.

Investigators have determined the cause of death to stem from blunt force trauma to the head. Prosecutors said in court that AJ was forced to remain in a cold shower for a long period of time, until he was beaten and succumbed to death from the head wounds. AJ’s body lay in the field for three days before Andrew Freund notified police of his disappearance.

AJ’s parents, JoAnn Cunningham, 36, and Andrew Freund, 60, have been monitored by CPS ever since he was born with opiates in his system. The home where he lived was riddled with dog feces and urine, and at one point was considered uninhabitable by CPS. On more than one occasion, AJ had shown up to school with bruises and cuts. His parents claimed the bruising was caused by the family dog.

Newly released records report that AJ once claimed to the Department of Family and Children Services (DCFS) that, “Maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe mommy didn’t mean to hurt me.”

These patterns of abuse, along with the parents refusing to cooperate with police just days after Andrew Freund called police to report his son was missing, have led to the murder charges, along with aggravated battery, aggravated domestic battery and failure to report a missing child in connection with their son’s death.

The couple is being tried in court, and their bail has been set at $5 million apiece. “According to the news, DCFS had guardianship of AJ for two years due to the opiates in his system when he was born, which was a very obvious warning sign,” said Dr. Lynn Tovar, professor of justice, law and safety studies. "DCFS received several calls regarding a suspicious injury to AJ’s leg and neglectful living conditions.  Children and the elderly are the most vulnerable persons within our population; therefore, I feel the bond set for the parents is justified.”

To further complicate things, JoAnn Cunningham is seven months pregnant with another child. Authorities are debating what should be done with the child once it is born, though it is unlikely at this point that she will receive custody of the child.

“Most likely DCFS will place the child once it is born, however the matter will ultimately be taken up in family court for a final disposition,” said Tovar.

It is important to keep in mind that this is still a developing case. If convicted, however, the parents of AJ Freund will face 20 to 60 years in prison, with the possibility of a life sentence based on the findings of the trial.