Video of Crystal Lake boy's bruised face on mother's cell phone helped police crack the murder case
Andrew Freund, 60, and JoAnn Cunningham, 36, were charged with AJ's murder after being confronted with a clip that shows the mother rebuking AJ for urinating on the bed while serious bruises are spotted on his face, neck, and chest.
Investigators were able to crack the case of five-year-old AJ Freund's horrific murder after uncovering a disturbing cell phone video.
Andrew Freund reportedly told detectives that AJ's mother JoAnn Cunningham was behind his son's demise, per the newly released court records. However, when authorities showed him the footage in question, he was forced to admit he had buried AJ in a shallow grave, Daily Mail reports.
In the two minute clip obtained from Cunningham's phone, AJ is seen lying naked on a bare mattress while she rebukes him for wetting the bed. On the other hand, the boy is seen holding an ice pack to his face.
At one point in the video, AJ removes the ice pack, only to reveal "deep red bruising" around his eyes and a "yellowish-greenish bruising" around his neck and upper chest, court records mention.
Speaking to investigators, the 60-year-old father said his wife, 36, had punished AJ with a cold shower after the five-year-old had "lied about soiled underwear."
Freund went a step further to say he and Cunningham had agreed to punish AJ with cold showers as it was a "less violent form of punishment" as compared to the "hard physical beatings" the latter would otherwise subject him to. AJ was found to have died of multiple blunt force injuries to the head, an autopsy later revealed.
On the night of April 15, Freund said, he helped his son out of the shower after he had been in there for 20 minutes. He then proceeded to tuck AJ in bed without drying him or giving him clothes to wear. Cunningham later went to check on him, according to documents obtained by WGN-TV.
When Cunningham returned, she woke up Freund and asked him to Google how to administer CPR to a child. When Freund went to check on AJ, he understood his son had died from the abuse, court records reveal.
The embattled father then took AJ's body to the basement and stored him in a tote.
Two nights later on April 17, Freund wrapped AJ's body in trash bags and placed him in the trunk of his car, before driving to a desolate area in Woodstock, Illinois and burying his body in a shallow grave. Freund would later direct investigators to the grave, which he had covered with straw.
The following morning, Freund and Cunningham reported their son missing.
An investigation into the family's Crystal Lake, Illinois residence quickly raised suspicions against the couple after K-9s indicated that their child had not left his home on the night his parents claimed he had disappeared.
Investigators found that the home had been frequently visited by the Department of Child and Family Services over the years and that both Freund and Cunningham were "known and self-admitted prior narcotics abusers."
The couple's home was reportedly in a "hoarder-like condition," investigators said. Garbage bags full of "wet refuse" were stacked in the basement and "piles of refuse" had filled up the garage.
Court documents stated that there was a garbage bag in the dining room that had white laundry inside and was smelling "heavily of bleach."
Investigators later recovered four empty bottles of bleach in the kitchen and the garage. The probe also found a picture of a shopping list that included plastic gloves, air freshener, bleach and duct tape purchased at a local Jewel-Osco.
But Freund claimed that Cunningham used up a gallon of bleach a week just to clean the house. When asked about the duct tape, he said it was for hanging photographs.
Freund was then asked about the browser search for "Child CPR", to which he claimed AJ's mother was preparing for her future child. She is currently seven months pregnant with another man's baby.
The latest court documents also revealed that according to the couple's four-year-old son Parker, who spoke to authorities, his mother told him AJ had fallen "down the stairs and had a lot of owies." Parker is currently in the care of a relative.
While speaking to investigators, Freund said his wife believed their son had "oppositional defiant disorder", which reportedly causes a child to be defiant or disobedient towards authority.
The five-year-old thought of himself as "the leader of his home" and was "therefore defiant to his parents, lies, disobeys, and thinks things should go his way", Freund told authorities.
Freund and Cunningham appeared in court separately on Monday. They are both being held on a $5 million bond at the McHenry County Jail on five counts of first-degree murder, aggravated battery, aggravated domestic battery and failure to report a missing child or child death. That said, the father has also been charged with concealing a body.