Illinois Boy Found Buried in Shallow Grave; Parents Charged

April 24, 2019 Updated: April 24, 2019

CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill.—Authorities on Wednesday, April 24, dug up the body of a 5-year-old Illinois boy who was reported missing last week and charged his parents with murder and other counts.

The body, believed to be that of Andrew “AJ” Freund, was wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave in a rural area of Woodstock, Crystal Lake police Chief James Black said at a news conference. Woodstock is about 50 miles northwest of Chicago and a few miles from the family’s home in Crystal Lake.

Black said investigators were led to the body after they interviewed the boy’s parents overnight and presented them with cellphone evidence.

The parents, Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham, each face five counts of first-degree murder and other charges, including aggravated battery.

Joann Cunningham who along with her husband Andrew Freund Sr. have been charged
Joann Cunningham who along with her husband Andrew Freund Sr. have been charged with murder and other charges in the death of their missing son Andrew “AJ” Freund on April 24, 2019. (Crystal Lake Police Department via AP)
Andrew Freund Sr, who along with his wife Joann Cunningham, have been charged with murder
Andrew Freund Sr, who along with his wife Joann Cunningham, have been charged with murder and other charges in the death of their missing son Andrew “AJ” Freund , on April 24, 2019. (Crystal Lake Police Department via AP)

In a message intended for the slain boy, the chief said, “We know you are at peace playing in heaven’s playground and are happy you no longer have to suffer.”

Black said his efforts are underway to confirm that the body is AJ’s and that his department won’t be releasing further details in an effort to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.

Officers removed several items from the family home on Wednesday, including a shovel, mattress, paper bags and a plastic storage tub.

Police Chief James Black
Police Chief James Black, left, and FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Sallet announce during a press conference that the parents of Andrew “AJ” Freund are responsible for his death, in Crystal Lake, Ill., on April 24, 2019. (Paul Valade/Daily Herald via AP)

Authorities said the couple reported AJ missing on Thursday and told officers they had last seen him at bedtime the previous night.

Early on in their investigation, though, police said they didn’t believe the boy was abducted or that he had left the home on foot. They also said they were “focusing on the residence and the individuals that may have seen or had contact with AJ last,” and that Cunningham wasn’t cooperating with detectives.

On Tuesday, the department released more than 60 pages of police reports written by officers who responded to various calls about the house, which is about 45 miles northwest of Chicago.

One report described seeing the home littered with dog feces and urine, and a children’s bedroom where “the smell of feces was overwhelming.” Another report said the officer found the house to be “cluttered, dirty and in disrepair,” and without electrical power.

The heavily-redacted reports also indicate state child welfare workers were called after officers spotted a large bruise on one of the young boys living there, but that the children appeared to be “healthy and happy” and were not removed from the house.

Andrew "AJ" Freund
Andrew “AJ” Freund. (Crystal Lake Police Department via AP)

Cunningham and Freund were in court Tuesday seeking custody of their 4-year-old son, Parker. Parker was taken into custody by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services on Thursday after Andrew was reported missing by his parents.

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