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Parents of AJ Freund Allegedly Murdered Him for Lying About Soiling His Pants

By Zachary Stieber

The parents of Andrew “AJ” Freund, a 5-year-old Illinois boy, killed their son after he lied about soiling his pants, according to newly released court documents.

AJ’s body was found on April 24, a week after he went missing, in a shallow grave about seven miles from his family’s home in Crystal Lake.

Police said they obtained forensic evidence from a cell phone, with which they confronted parents Andrew Freund Sr. and Joann Cunningham. The parents then gave more information, which ultimately led to the recovery of the boy’s body.

Cunningham and Freund were arrested and charged with murder.

missing boy's mother, father
Andrew Freund Jr., 5, went missing from his Crystal Lake, Illinois home on April 18, 2019. He was found about a week later buried in a shallow grave. (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

Police later said that Freund, who is known as Drew, blamed his son’s injuries on the boy’s mother and said she started hurting AJ after the boy lied about soiling his pants.

“Drew also said that he believed AJ died on Monday morning after spending a prolonged time in a cold shower,” an affidavit, obtained by the Chicago Tribune, stated.

“Drew explained he wanted Joann to stop with the hard physical beatings and do some less violent form of punishment. Drew said cold showers was decided (as the alternative). Drew said on or about … 4/15/19, AJ had lied about soiled underwear and he was subjected to a cold shower. Drew said he helped AJ out of the shower after he’d been there approximately 20 minutes, and put AJ to bed ‘cold, wet, and naked.’”

“Drew said Joann got up and checked on AJ and that was when she got Drew and used Drew’s phone to search for child CPR. Drew advised at some point that he believed AJ had died,” the affidavit stated.

JoAnn Cunningham, the mother of missing 5-year-old child
JoAnn Cunningham, the mother of missing 5-year-old child Andrew “AJ” Freund, stands with her attorney George Killis outside of the Freund home in Crystal Lake, Ill., on April 19, 2019. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune via AP)
Andrew Freund Sr., the father of the missing 5-year-old
Andrew “Drew” Freund Sr., the father of the missing 5-year-old Andrew “AJ” Freund, walks near his home on Dole Avenue in Crystal Lake, Ill., on April 19, 2019. (John Starks/Daily Herald via AP)

“Drew said the next day he took AJ’s body to the basement and stored him in a tote. He said on the night of 4/17/19 he placed Andrew inside of several trash bags, placed the body in the trunk of his car, and drove him to an area in Woodstock. Drew said he dug a shallow grave for AJ, placed him in it, covered it with straw, and left,” it added.

Investigators previously revealed in court documents that video footage found on Cunningham’s cell phone played a key role in breaking open the investigation.

An autopsy revealed that the cause of death for the boy was craniocerebral trauma—a traumatic brain injury—as a consequence of multiple blunt force injuries to the head, according to a coroner’s report.

Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black said at a press conference after the body was found that he hoped the discovery of the boy would give the rest of AJ’s family closure.

Little AJ Freund Memorial
A small memorial in front of the home of five-year-old Andrew “AJ” Freund after it was announced that his remains had been found in Crystal Lake, Ill. on April 24, 2019. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

“To AJ’s family, it is our hope that you may have some solace in knowing that AJ is no longer suffering and his killers have been brought to justice,” Crystal Lake Police wrote in a press release.

“We would also like to thank the community for their support and assistance during this difficult time. To AJ, we know you are at peace playing in heaven’s playground and are happy you no longer have to suffer.”

The discovery of the body came after police released the 911 call made by Freund Sr.. The father said his son was missing on April 18.

“We’ve checked closets, the basement, the garage, everywhere,” Freund told the dispatcher, adding that he had scoured the park, a nearby school and a “local gas station down here where we sometimes take him to buy treats.” But he claimed that there was no sign of the boy.