‘All She Wanted Was To Be A Mom’: Adoptive Parents Allegedly Murdered By 11 Year Old

JoAnn Cunningham, 36, and Andrew Freund Sr, 60, appeared in front of a judge on Thursday morning at the McHenry County jail

  • They are facing multiple charges in the death and disappearance of their son AJ

  • Prosecutors alleged the parents forced their son 'to remain in a cold shower for an extended period of time' and struck him repeatedly on April 15

  • A complaint said they did so 'knowing said acts would cause the death of [AJ]'

  • An official cause of death will be determined by an autopsy taking place today 

  • The parents told police on Thursday April 18 that AJ mysteriously vanished from their home in Crystal Lake, Illinois, after he went to bed the night before 

  • The boy's body was found in rural area of Woodstock on Wednesday morning

  • Investigators were seen collecting several items including a dirt-caked shovel, two brown bags, a plastic storage bin and a mattress from the couple's home  

  • AJ's family has a troubling history with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, which has been involved with the boy since birth

  • DCFS had reportedly visited the family's home 17 separate times 

  • Cunningham was investigated by the DCFS in December after police discovered 'unacceptable conditions' at the home where AJ and his younger brother lived

  • By Megan Sheets For Dailymail.com >

    Published: 11:25 EDT, 25 April 2019 | Updated: 15:57 EDT, 25 April 2019

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    Slain five-year-old AJ Freund's parents allegedly forced him to stand in a cold shower and beat him knowing that their actions would kill him, prosecutors claim.   

    JoAnn Cunningham, 36, and Andrew Freund Sr, 60, appeared front of a judge at the McHenry County jail on Thursday morning, one day after they were hit with a slew of charges related to AJ's death and disappearance. 

    Prosecutors alleged the parents forced their son 'to remain in a cold shower for an extended period of time' and struck him repeatedly on April 15 'knowing said acts would cause the death of [AJ]'. 

    Freund Sr allegedly buried the boy the same day, and three days later on April 18 the parents told police their son had vanished from his bed at their home in Crystal Lake, Illinois. 

    They each issued desperate pleas for their son's return as local law enforcement and the FBI carried out a sweeping six-day search. 

    Cunningham, who is seven months pregnant, shook her head from side to side and choked back tears while the charges against her were read, the Chicago Tribune reported. 

    Freund Sr appeared after her and showed no emotion as he gripped the podium.  

    Judge Mark Gerhardt set their bail at $5million each, telling both parents: 'These are serious allegations.' They would have to post a 10 percent bond, or $500,000, to be released. 

    JoAnn Cunningham, 36, and Andrew Freund Sr, 60, appeared in front of a judge on Thursday morning at the McHenry County jail to face charges in the death and disappearance of their five-year-old son AJ. Cunningham is seen above in her mugshot They are each being held in lieu of $5million bail. Freund Sr is seen above in his mugshot

    JoAnn Cunningham, 36, and Andrew Freund Sr, 60, appeared in front of a judge on Thursday morning at the McHenry County jail to face charges in the death and disappearance of their five-year-old son AJ. They are each being held in lieu of $5million bail

    Prosecutors alleged that AJ was beaten to death but did not specify by which parent. An official cause of death has not been determined as an autopsy is scheduled for Thursday

    Prosecutors alleged that AJ was beaten to death but did not specify by which parent. An official cause of death has not been determined as an autopsy is scheduled for Thursday

    AJ, whose given name was Andrew, was found early Wednesday wrapped in plastic and buried in a rural area of Woodstock about 10 miles from the family's home. 

    An official cause of death has not been determined as an autopsy is scheduled to take place Thursday. 

    Harrowing pictures of a body bag containing AJ's remains emerged hours after police announced the arrest of his parents. 

    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.

    Freund Sr is facing 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. 

    Investigators with the McHenry County Coroner's office were seen loading AJ's body into a minivan after he was found wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave on Wednesday, in a rural area of Woodstock, Illinois, a few miles from the family's home in Crystal Lake

    Investigators with the McHenry County Coroner's office were seen loading AJ's body into a minivan after he was found wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave on Wednesday, in a rural area of Woodstock, Illinois, a few miles from the family's home in Crystal Lake

    This map shows AJ's Crystal Lake home in relation to where his body was found in Woodstock

    This map shows AJ's Crystal Lake home in relation to where his body was found in Woodstock

    Authorities had focused the investigation on the home early on after no evidence was found indicating that AJ was abducted or that he wandered off on his own.

    Earlier on Wednesday investigators were seen carrying items including a dirt-caked shovel, two brown bags, a plastic storage bin and a small mattress out of the house. 

    The family dog, a brown Boxer named Lucy, was taken into custody by Animal Control officials. 

    Investigators were seen collecting evidence from AJ's home in Crystal Lake on Wednesday

    Investigators were seen collecting evidence from AJ's home in Crystal Lake on Wednesday

    The items removed from the house included a dirt-caked shovel, two brown bags, a plastic storage bin and a small mattress

    The items removed from the house included a dirt-caked shovel, two brown bags, a plastic storage bin and a small mattress

    Information provided by both parents as well as forensic cellphone data were used to locate AJ's body in Woodstock's Hennen Conservation Area, where investigators are seen above

    Information provided by both parents as well as forensic cellphone data were used to locate AJ's body in Woodstock's Hennen Conservation Area, where investigators are seen above

    There is growing anger over why AJ was allowed to remain with his parents despite child services visiting the family home 17 times before his death.  

    The home was known to be filthy, while his lawyer father had his license revoked for a cocaine abuse conviction and sought therapy for an opioid problem. 

    Police reports relating to a separate matter obtained by the DailyMail.com reveal that officers attending the home noted an 'overwhelming smell of dog feces and urine' - and that the house was in 'disrepair' with living conditions 'unacceptable.' 

    The heavily redacted reports also stated bruises were noticed on one of the young boys in December but that the children appeared to be 'healthy and happy' and were not removed from the house. 

    Despite all this, no attempt was made in five years to remove AJ and his three-year-old brother, who was removed from the home last Friday.  

    The Illinois Department of Child Services released the following statement after AJ's death was announced: 'After a nearly week-long search for missing Andrew "A.J." Freund, law enforcement officials today confirmed his death. This news is heartbreaking. 

    'Protecting vulnerable children who come to our attention is at the core of our mission at DCFS. All of us feel this loss. Our priority is the care and safety of Andrew's younger sibling. We will continue to cooperate with law enforcement in their ongoing investigation. 

    'The Department is committed to conducting a comprehensive review of the entirety of our work with Andrew's family to understand our shortcomings and to be fully transparent with the public on any steps we are taking to address the issues.' 

    Mourners gather outside AJ's home for a vigil after his body was discovered on Wednesday

    Mourners gather outside AJ's home for a vigil after his body was discovered on Wednesday

    Cunningham is comforted by her attorney on Friday as she pleaded for her son's return

    Cunningham is comforted by her attorney on Friday as she pleaded for her son's return

    Cunningham's lawyer George Kililis spoke to reporters on her behalf on Friday, saying the mother is 'worried sick' about her son and 'had nothing to do with' the boy's disappearance

    Cunningham's lawyer George Kililis spoke to reporters on her behalf on Friday, saying the mother is 'worried sick' about her son and 'had nothing to do with' the boy's disappearance

    Police visited AJ's home 17 times before he went missing and found it was covered in dog feces

    Cunningham was arrested on the night AJ was reported missing for failure to appear in court on a charge of driving with a suspended license stemming from an incident in December. 

    According to police reports obtained by DailyMail.com, officers were dispatched to the home where Cunningham lived with AJ and his three-year-old brother on December 18 after the mother claimed that her prescription medication had been stolen.  

    Officer Nickolaus Trimpe wrote in a report that the living conditions at house were not 'up to an acceptable standard' and said there was 'dog feces and urine scattered about'. 

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