Ill. Mom Accused of Killing Son, 5, Tearfully Pleaded for Safe Return on TV: 'My Kids Are My Life'

Andrew Freund Sr. and Joanne Cunningham allegedly killed their son before claiming he'd gone missing

JoAnne Cunningham AJ Freund
Photo: ABC; Crystal Lake Police Department

Before they were accused of murdering their son, the parents of 5-year-old Andrew “A.J.” Freund went on TV and pleaded for his safe return after he’d gone missing.

“I want us home together,” A.J.’s mother, JoAnne Cunningham, who is reportedly 7 months pregnant, tearfully told ABC News last weekend. “I just want my kids. … My kids are my life. They’re my kids.”

Illinois prosecutors said in court Thursday that the boy’s parents allegedly killed and buried A.J. three days before reporting him missing last Thursday, CBS Chicago reports.

A.J.’s body was found Wednesday buried in a shallow grave and wrapped in plastic in Woodstock, about seven miles away from his home in Crystal Lake. His parents were arrested on Wednesday.

Last Saturday, hours before Freund and Cunningham attended a prayer vigil for their son, Freund talked to local reporters.

“A.J., please come home,” the father said, the Lake and McHenry County Scanner reports. “We love you very much. You’re not in any trouble. We’re just worried to death. Please, please come home.”

Andrew Freund
Andrew Freund, Sr. of Crystal Lake, Illinois, talking to the media Friday. ABC

On Sunday morning, Freund told local station ABC7 he was working with police but also looking for his son himself.

“We are all just doing everything that we can at this point,” he told the station.

‘Analysis of Cell Phone Data’ Helped Crack Case

Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black said at a press conference that authorities obtained “forensic analysis of cell phone data,” and that when confronted with that evidence, both parents “provided information that ultimately led to the recovery” of A.J.’s body.

Freund and Cunningham face a slew of charges including first-degree murder, aggravated battery and failure to report a child missing, Black said.

JoAnne Cunningham
JoAnne Cunningham of Crystal Lake, Illinois. Crystal Lake Police Department

On Thursday, they appeared in court where bond was set at $5 million each, ABC7 reports.

Shocking details of the torment and abuse the child allegedly endured are beginning to emerge. At Thursday’s bond hearing, prosecutors alleged that Freund and Cunningham forced the child to take a cold shower for an extended period of time and beat him before he died, ABC 7 and the Chicago Tribune report.

An autopsy is scheduled for Thursday to determine the child’s cause of death.

Cunningham and Freund will return to court on April 29 when they are arraigned.

Andrew Freund
Andrew Freund, Sr., of Crystal Lake, Illinois.

“A.J. is no longer suffering and his killers have been brought to justice,” Black said at the press conference.

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE that it has been dealing with the boy’s parents since his birth because he was born with opiates in his system.

Cunningham’s attorney did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

It was not immediately clear if Freund has retained an attorney.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Crystal Lake Police Department at 815-356-3620.

Related Articles