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Crime & Courts

AJ Freund forced to stand in cold shower, beaten by parents before death, prosecutors say

Prosecutors say parents forced AJ into cold shower, struck him

Days before Andrew “AJ” Freund was reported missing, his parents forced him into a cold shower for an extended period of time and struck him several times, which led to his death, prosecutors said.

A judge on Thursday set a $5 million bond for each parent accused of killing their 5-year-old son. The boy’s father is charged with wrapping the boy in plastic and burying him in a shallow grave in a rural area near Woodstock, court documents show.

Although the pair didn’t report AJ missing until April 18, charging documents filed in McHenry County court Thursday morning revealed the boy actually died on April 15.

Andrew Freund and JoAnn Cunningham made brief court appearances Thursday morning at the McHenry County Jail, where prosecutors read aloud details of the charges that were filed against the pair on Wednesday.

Judge Mark Gerhardt determined the bond, which prosecutors had asked to be set at $10 million for each parent. Cunningham and Freund would need to post just over $500,000 each to be released from jail.

If released, the parents would be required to wear electronic home monitoring devices, have no contact with one another or anyone under the age of 17 and must surrender any firearms. They would also have to submit to random drug screens.

Cunningham and Freund each were represented by a public defender and are scheduled to appear in McHenry County court Monday for separate bond hearings.

The cause of death for AJ has yet to be determined, Crystal Lake Police Chief Jim Black said Wednesday at a news conference. An autopsy is tentatively scheduled for Thursday morning, according to a joint statement from the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office and the McHenry County Coroner’s Office.

Crystal Lake police and FBI agents interviewed the parents overnight Wednesday after information was obtained through a forensic analysis of cellphone data, Black said. Details about the parents’ cellphone activity was not immediately available.

Information provided by the parents led investigators to the site where AJ’s body was found on Wednesday. The McHenry County Coroner’s Office was called to the scene to assist with the recovery and identification of the “pre-teen male” body, authorities said.

Cunningham is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery, aggravated domestic battery and failure to report a missing child. She’s additionally accused of harming AJ in another instance on March 4, according to the criminal complaint.

Freund is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery, aggravated domestic battery, concealment of a homicide and failure to report a missing child.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Cunningham, 36, and Freund, 60, could face life in prison.

The pair appeared in McHenry County court the day before were charged. Freund and Cunningham hoped to dispute the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services’ decision to remove a younger son from the home amid allegations of neglect and abuse.

Freund, a licensed attorney, was dressed in a suit and glasses when he embarrassed a tearful Cunningham, clad in a black and white striped shirt and blue jeans Tuesday.

By Thursday morning, however, the parents were kept separate as they stood expressionless in orange McHenry County jail scrubs, and heard the felony charges read aloud by a judge for the first time.

Freund had told a 911 dispatcher on April 18 that he returned between 8 and 8:30 a.m. from an early-morning doctor appointment and discovered that AJ wasn’t in his bedroom, a redacted 911 tape revealed.

Freund claimed to have meticulously searched their home for the 3-foot-5 boy with short blond hair. The parents also checked for AJ at an unidentified school and a local gas station before reporting him missing, Freund said.

Both he and Cunningham told police they last saw AJ Wednesday evening, after their family dinner, bedtime prayers and a bath, Cunningham’s attorneys have said.

He was reportedly wearing a blue Mario sweatshirt and black sweatpants the last time Freund and Cunningham saw him alive.

DCFS has had contact with AJ on and off since 2013, when he was born with opiates in his system, the agency reported.

He spent the first two years of his life in foster care before returning to his mother in 2015, according to DCFS reports, several of which were unfounded.

On Wednesday, a light rainfall dotted the stretch of Dean Street in an unincorporated area near Woodstock, as officers with the FBI, Crystal Lake Police Department and McHenry County Sheriff’s Department removed AJ’s body from shallow grave where he was discovered that morning. His body was wrapped in plastic, police said.

A shelter hearing to determine where Cunningham’s younger son will stay while DCFS investigates abuse and neglect allegations is scheduled to take place Monday in McHenry County juvenile court.

It’s unclear how shelter arrangements will be made for Cunningham’s unborn child, with whom she is seven months pregnant.

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