It’s been confirmed that a Crystal Lake, Chicago missing boy’s body was recently found in a shallow grave. The 5-year-old boy was reported missing by his father last Thursday.
Now both his parents have been arrested and charged with murder.
On Thursday afternoon, the McHenry's County Interim Coroner in northern Illinois confirmed that the body found in a shallow grave was that of Andrew "AJ" Freund Jr., 5. AJ went missing from the Crystal Lake suburban home a week ago.
Coroner David Devane revealed that the child had died of “craniocerebral trauma as a consequence of multiple blunt force injuries.” His remains were found wrapped in plastic and buried in a remote area near Woodstock, Illinois.
On Wednesday, Crystal Lake police Chief James Black reported that the boy’s body was found around seven miles from his home. AJ’s parents were both charged with his murder, battery, and other counts.
On Thursday morning during separate court appearances, both of them were ordered to be held on $5 million bail each. The boy’s father, Andrew Freund Sr., 60, was the one who called 911 to report him missing last Thursday.
On Tuesday, the 911 call was released to the public. During the phone call, Andrew claimed he’d last saw his son when he went to bed the night before.
The father claimed that AJ was missing when he returned home the next morning from an early doctor's appointment. However, early on Wednesday the Crystal Lake police and the FBI interviewed the parents with evidence of foul play.
Black revealed that the boy’s father and mother, JoAnn Cunningham, 35, were confronted with forensic analysis of cellphone data developed by investigators. That was when both parents provided information that led to the recovery of the body.
According to criminal complaints, on April 15 AJ’s parents forced him to remain in a cold shower for an extended period of time. They then struck the boy on his body, "knowing that said acts created a strong probability of death of death or great bodily harm."
The prosecutor alleged that the murder occurred three days before the boy was reported missing. A separate complaint for Cunningham also claimed that she struck AJ on March 4.
Andrew was accused of burying the child's body. After the arrests were made on Wednesday, Black had a few words to say about the case.
He said: "To AJ's family, it is my hope that you may have some solace in knowing that AJ is no longer suffering, and his killers have been brought to justice." He added: "I would also like to thank the community for their support and assistance during this difficult time. To AJ, we know you're at peace playing in heaven's playground and are happy that you no longer have to suffer."
Cunningham was charged with five counts of first-degree murder, four counts of aggravated battery, two counts of aggravated domestic battery, and one count of failure to report a missing child or child death. AJ’s father was charged with five counts of first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated battery, one count of aggravated domestic battery, two counts of concealment of a homicidal death, and one count of failure to reports a missing child or child death.
The boy’s mother, who is also seven months pregnant, seemed to be fighting back tears as prosecutors explained their charges. On the same day the body was found, the police were seen at the family’s home.
They removed a shovel, a mattress from a child-sized bed, a number of large bags, and a large plastic bin. The items were all loaded into an evidence team van.
Officials revealed that the home was found severely dilapidated, with broken windows and, at times, no electricity for weeks. AJ’s room where he and his younger brother slept allegedly smelled like feces and urine.
AJ’s younger brother, Parker, 3, was taken into custody by State child welfare officials. According to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the family has been visited by them 17 times.
The family dealt with DCFS after AJ was born with opiates in his system in 2013. The department has promised to fully review the case.
The bond set for the parents meant they would have to pay 10 percent of the total amount. They also have to pay $28 for the sheriff’s fee to be released from custody.
If they manage to post bail, they would be placed on electronic monitoring. Both suspects would be prohibited from having any contact with each other or anyone under the age of 17.
They would also be expected to surrender any firearms and submit to random drug tests.
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