Mother Charged With Death of 5-Year-Old AJ Freund Gives Birth in Prison

June 11, 2019 Updated: June 11, 2019

The mother who was charged in the death of her 5-year-old son, A.J. Freund, has given birth while behind bars, according to reports.

JoAnn Cunningham, 36, has been charged with first-degree murder in the boy’s death. A.J. Freund’s plastic-wrapped body was found on April 24 in a rural area of Woodstock, about 50 miles northwest of Chicago, and about 10 minutes away from his family home, approximately a week after the 5-year-old was reported missing.

The boy’s father Andrew “Drew” Freund Sr., 60, has also been charged with the boy’s death.

A source from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) told WGN News in a report on June 10 that Cunningham had recently given birth to a baby girl. She has agreed to allow the child to remain in DCFS custody.

This comes weeks after both Cunningham and Freund agreed to give up custody of their younger son to the state’s child welfare agency, according to the Northwest Herald. The 4-year-old boy was taken into custody by the department after his older brother’s April 18 disappearance. He will now remain in the agency’s care.

An autopsy has revealed that AJ died as a result of craniocerebral trauma caused by blunt force injuries to the head.

Other chilling details were heard in court, according to Fox5, including that prior to being beaten to death, the little boy was forced to take a long, cold shower.

A criminal complaint stated that A.J.’s parents allegedly forced the young boy “to remain in a cold shower for an extended period of time and/or struck A.F. on or about his body, knowing such acts would cause the death of A.F,” reported Fox 5.

Police photos showing JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr., who face multiple charges in the death of their 5-year-old son. (McHenry County Sheriff’s Department via AP)

‘No Longer Have to Suffer’

Crystal Lake police Chief James Black said at a news conference that investigators were led to the body after they interviewed the boy’s parents overnight and presented them with cellphone evidence, according to The Associated Press.

During the interviews, the boy’s father said he didn’t know what happened to his son, Fox32 reported. Meanwhile, investigators said that Cunningham had been “uncooperative with police” when they interviewed her.

Cunningham’s attorney, George Kililis, said she stopped answering police officers’ questions after her attorneys told her not to.

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.”

Luis Maldonado, a local man, described the area where the boy was discovered as being fairly isolated.

“It’s very quiet,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “If they found a body here, I don’t know how they found this place.”

A makeshift memorial
A makeshift memorial grows outside the Dole Avenue home of Andrew “AJ” Freund, age 5, in Crystal Lake, Ill., on April 22, 2019. (Paul Valade/Daily Herald via AP)

‘Maybe Someone Hit Me With a Belt’

Months before his death, A.J. Freund told a doctor that his mother might have abused him, reported USA Today.

When questioned initially by the doctor, the boy and Cunningham said bruising on the side of the boy’s leg was caused by the family dog. But when the doctor talked to A.J. alone, he told him: “Maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe Mommy didn’t mean to hurt me,” according to the newspaper, citing records from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).

State officials then investigated the claim but found there wasn’t enough evidence to take the child into custody, according to the report.

The case was eventually closed about a month later due to a lack of evidence, Fox News reported. Doctors ultimately couldn’t determine how the child got the bruise.

According to CNN, citing the report, doctors said the bruise could have been caused by “a dog, belt or football.”

Jack Phillips and Tom Ozimek contributed to this report.

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