Newborn Sister of Deceased 5-Year-Old Boy AJ Freund Is Put in State Custody, Awaits Paternity Results

Mimi Nguyen Ly
By Mimi Nguyen Ly
July 10, 2019USshare
Newborn Sister of Deceased 5-Year-Old Boy AJ Freund Is Put in State Custody, Awaits Paternity Results
Andrew "AJ" Freund. (Crystal Lake Police Department)

The newborn sister of 5-year-old boy Andrew “AJ” Freund, whose body was found in a shallow grave in Illinois in April, is to remain in Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) custody, at least until paternity test results, delayed until Aug. 12, are finalized.

The mother of the two children, JoAnn Cunningham, 36, is facing trial on first-degree murder charges related to AJ’s death. She is also accused of hiding her son’s body before falsely reporting him missing in April.

JoAnn Cunningham(L) and her husband, Andrew Freund Sr.(R)
JoAnn Cunningham (L) and her husband Andrew Freund Sr. (R) (Crystal Lake Police Department via AP)

AJ’s father, Andrew Freund Sr., 60, faces similar charges. Cunningham faces 20 counts while Freund Sr. faces 21 counts.

The two are being held at the McHenry County jail, each on a $5 million bond. Cunningham is due in criminal court on Aug. 29 and Freund Sr. due on July 16, according to the Northwest Herald. Both had pleaded not guilty.

Cunningham was about 7 months pregnant at the time of her arrest. She gave birth to the baby girl—AJ’s sister—named Gracie Faith, on May 31.

The mom was given two days with her newborn in the hospital before the infant was put in state protective custody, according to CBS Chicago.

Andrew Freund JoAnn Cunning… by on Scribd

It is not yet clear whether Freund Sr., who is now Cunningham’s ex-boyfriend, or Daniel Nowicki, who is a subsequent boyfriend of Cunningham, is the father of Gracie Faith. A judge had ordered them last month to undergo paternity tests. The Northwest Herald reported that swabs have yet to be administered to carry out the tests.

Nowicki, 36, was arrested June 11 for having violated his probation in a separate and unrelated incident. He is currently held in McHenry County Jail.

All three adults—Cunningham, Freund, and Nowicki were present on the day prior, June 10, at a shelter care hearing to decide where Gracie Faith was to be placed, reported the news outlet.

Cunningham also has another son, 4-year-old Parker, who is currently also under DFCS custody.

A makeshift memorial
A makeshift memorial grows outside the Dole Avenue home of Andrew “AJ” Freund, age 5, in Crystal Lake, Ill., on April 22, 2019. (Paul Valade/Daily Herald via AP)

AJ Freund’s Death

A.J. Freund’s plastic-wrapped body was found on April 24 in a rural area of Woodstock, about 50 miles northwest of Chicago, and about 10 minutes away from his family home, approximately a week after the 5-year-old was reported missing.

An autopsy showed that the boy died from craniocerebral trauma due to blunt force injuries to the head.

According to Fox 5, prosecutors allege that Cunningham and Freund Sr. forced AJ to “to remain in a cold shower for an extended period of time and/or struck [him] on or about his body, knowing such acts would cause [his death].”

Andrew-22AJ22-Freund
Andrew “AJ” Freund. (Crystal Lake Police Department via AP)

Police say the boy was killed three days before his parents reported him “missing,” the Daily Herald reported.

Crystal Lake police Chief James Black said at a news conference that investigators were led to the body after they interviewed the boy’s parents overnight and presented them with cellphone evidence, reported The Associated Press.

During the interviews, the boy’s father said he didn’t know what happened to his son, Fox32 reported. Meanwhile, investigators said that Cunningham had been “uncooperative with police” when they interviewed her.

Cunningham’s attorney, George Kililis, said she stopped answering police officers’ questions after her attorneys told her not to.

JoAnn Cunningham, the mother of missing 5-year-old child
JoAnn Cunningham, the mother of Andrew “AJ” Freund, stands with her attorney George Killis outside the Freund home as he speaks on her behalf and pleads with the public to help find AJ in Crystal Lake, Ill., on April 19, 2019. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune via AP)

Months before his death, AJ had told a doctor that his mother might have abused him, USA Today reported. State officials then investigated the claim but found there wasn’t enough evidence to take the child into custody, according to the report.

In a message back in April for the slain AJ, Black had said, “We know you are at peace playing in heaven’s playground and are happy you no longer have to suffer.”

NTD Photo
Jeffrey Sallet, FBI special agent in charge of the Chicago bureau and Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black (R) announce the remains of Andrew “AJ” Freund had been found during a press conference at city hall in Crystal Lake, Ill. on April 24, 2019. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Janita Kan, Tom Ozimek, and Jack Phillips contributed to this report.

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