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‘Playing in heaven’s playground:’ Body of missing 5-year-old boy found; parents charged

WOODSTOCK, Ill. -- Crystal Lake police on Wednesday afternoon, April 24 announced a body believed to be that of Andrew "AJ" Freund, a missing 5-year-old boy from Crystal Lake, was found buried in a shallow grave, wrapped in plastic, in rural Woodstock, Illinois. The boy's parents were charged with murder -- and were in custody as of Wednesday afternoon.

In a news conference, Crystal Lake's police chief said overnight, the mother, JoAnn Cunningham, and the father, Andrew Freund Sr. were interviewed after information was obtained through an analysis of cellphone data. When presented with the evidence, the police chief said they provided information "that led to what we believe is the recovery of the deceased subject."

The McHenry County coroner and the "Evidence Recovery Unit" were on scene Wednesday in Woodstock.

Police said the cause of death was unknown as of Wednesday afternoon.

Charges are as follows:

JoAnn Cunningham

  • Five counts of first degree murder
  • Four counts of aggravated battery
  • Two counts of aggravated domestic battery
  • One count of failure to report a missing child

Andrew Freund Sr.

  • 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
  • One count of failure to report a missing child/death

Police said they were in police custody and would be transported to the McHenry County Jail to await bond hearings.

The police chief offered this message to AJ's family: "It is my hope you may have some solace in knowing AJ is no longer suffering and his killers have been brought to justice."

He offered this message to AJ: "AJ, we know you're at peace playing in heaven's playground and are happy you no longer have to suffer."

Earlier Wednesday, investigators returned to the family home and removed several items, including a shovel, a mattress, two lawn bags and a large bin. The family dog was also removed from the home by Animal Control officials.

The rural area in Woodstock where the body believed to be the boy's was found is about 15 minutes from the house.

Also Wednesday, an attorney for the boy's mother was spotted entering the Crystal Lake Police Department around 6 a.m. When WGN questioned Attorney George Killis as to why he was at the police station, he had no comment.

AJ was last seen at bedtime a week ago, and the days since have involved multiple searches by law enforcement as disturbing details continue to emerge about his parents and living conditions inside their home.

Tuesday's police search focused on Veteran Acres Park in Crystal Lake, with police using sonar to check the pond. But hours of searching there, and also in Stern Woods, yielded nothing.

The police release of the 911 call made by AJ’s father, Andrew Freund Sr., reveals he was calm in reporting the disappearance after searching on his own.

Freund Sr. is the former divorce attorney for Cunningham. The two never married, but were said to be living together with their children and no longer dating.

Since the disappearance, the family’s history with DCFS and Crystal Lake Police has come to light, with multiple reports of abuse, neglect and drug use.

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