Crystal Lake boy AJ Freund was forced to stand in a cold shower and struck multiple times prior to his death, prosecutors claim
The 5-year-old's body was discovered wrapped in plastic and buried in a rural area, around 10 miles from the family home. His parents had even issued pleas for his safe return after they reported him missing
An autopsy revealed that 5-year-old AJ Freund passed away after suffering from blunt force trauma to the head, as the child's parents had to face court after being charged with his murder.
36-year-old Joann Cunningham and 60-year-old Andrew Freund Sr had allegedly made the child stand in a cold shower and had beaten him, well aware that their actions could kill him, the prosecutors claimed. Cunningham and Freund had appeared before a judge at the McHenry County jail on Thursday morning, just a day after being hit with charges related to the tragic death of AJ and his disappearance.
According to the prosecutors, the parents had forced their child "to remain in a cold shower for an extended period of time" and had struck him repeatedly on April 15, "knowing said acts would cause the death of [AJ]". The very same day, Freund had buried the child and three days later on April 18, the parents reported the child missing to the authorities.
They claimed that AJ had vanished from his bed at their home in Crystal Lake, Illinois. Both of them had issued desperate pleas for the safe return of their son while local law enforcement and the FBI conducted a thorough sweep lasting six days.Little AJ was discovered on early Wednesday and was wrapped in plastic and buried in a rural area of Woodstock, 10 miles away from the family home. On Thursday, the McHenry County Coroner's Office confirmed the body to be AJ's.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune, Cunningham is currently seven months pregnant and was seen shaking her head side to side as she held back her tears as the charges against her were read. After Cunningham, Freund appeared in court and showed absolutely no emotion while he gripped the podium. Judge Mark Gerhardt decided to set their bail at $5million each.
Gerhardt told both the parents, "These are serious allegations." They would be required to post a 10% bond or $500,000 in order to be released.
The coroner's office also released a statement which read, "An autopsy conducted Thursday resulted in a finding of the cause of death as craniocerebral trauma as a consequence of multiple blunt force injuries."
Cunningham is facing 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 or child death. While Freund is looking at 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 report a missing child or child death.
Before AJ's tragic passing, child services had visited his home 17 times before sparking outrage as to why AJ had been allowed to remain living with his parents. There was no attempt to remove AJ and his 3-year-old brother until last Friday.