AJ Freund's extended family believes 5-year-old "made the ultimate sacrifice to save his younger brother and unborn sibling"
The extended family members of Andrew "AJ" Freund, the 5-year-old Illinois boy who was allegedly killed by his parents, mourned the loss of the toddler, saying that he made the "ultimate scarifice to save his younger brother and unborn sibling."
AJ's parents, Andrew Freund Sr and JoAnn Cunningham, were arrested for his murder after his body was found wrapped in plastic and buried inside a shallow grave near Woodstock in Illinois last Wednesday. Freund Sr had called 911 to report him missing, a week prior to that.
Even as the parents remain behind bars, others members of AJ's family, including a cousin who fostered him for the first 18 months of his short life, remembered the child as always laughing, curious and happy.
Chicago-based attorney Peter Flowers shared with People, "The family is grieving this week." The extended family members also issued a statement regarding AJ's death on Tuesday via Flowers who is currently acting as a spokesperson for the family.
The statement reads, "We, the family that lovingly cared for Andrew (AJ) during the first 18 months of his life and were then allowed to be in his life for another 26 months until the parents abruptly prevented us from having any further contact with him, want everyone to know that AJ was loved by us with all our hearts."
"He was, and will always be, our loving and caring little boy. With his brave short life, AJ made the ultimate sacrifice to save his younger brother and unborn sibling. His life shall not be in vain. AJ will always be our little superhero," the statement continued.
The family's statement further continued, "While we had him in our lives, he had a happy, fun-loving life. This smart little boy loved having books read to him, doing puzzles, his Thomas the Train, playing with his fire trucks, bulldozers, cement mixer, and Ninja Turtles. He was very curious and always wanted to learn about everything."
Last Wednesday, police arrested 60-year-old Freund and AJ's mother 35-year-old Cunningham. Police showed them "forensic analysis of cell phone data" which led the parents to give out "information that ultimately led to the recovery" of AJ's body, the Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black shared at a press conference on that day.
An autopsy revealed that 5-year-old AJ Freund passed away after suffering from blunt force trauma to the head. MEAWW had previously reported that 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.
The parents, who are being held on a $5 million bond, agreed on Tuesday to give up custody of their 4-year-old son.