In Court, Parents of Murdered Ill. Boy A.J. Freund Agree to Give Up Custody of Other Son

The child's parents are accused of murdering A.J. by beating him and forcing him to stand in a cold shower for an extended time

Andrew "AJ" Freund
Photo: Crystal Lake Police Department

The Illinois parents charged with allegedly murdering 5-year-old Andrew “A.J.” Freund have agreed to give up custody of their youngest son as they remain behind bars awaiting trial, multiple outlets report.

On Monday, JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund, Sr., attended a custody hearing in McHenry County Juvenile Court after prosecutors filed a petition seeking to terminate their parental rights for A.J.’s younger brother, Chicago stations NBC5 and WGN 9 and the Northwest Herald report.

JoAnne Cunningham AJ Freund
ABC; Crystal Lake Police Department

The couple later agreed to relinquish custody of their 4-year-old son to the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services, NBC 5, WGN and other outlets report.

The child was taken into DCFS custody when A.J. was reported missing.

Held on a $5 million bond each, Cunningham, 35, and Freund, 60, also appeared in criminal court Monday for a preliminary hearing but did not enter pleas, local station WGN 9 reports.

While in court, Cunningham, who is 7 months pregnant, appeared dazed, multiple outlets report.

Struggling to answer questions, Cunningham told the court in hushed tones that she “has no money, hasn’t worked in two years, her last job was as a hair stylist, and her home is in foreclosure,” WGN9 reports.

She and Freund are scheduled to return to court on May 10, where they will likely face grand jury indictments, WGN 9 reports.

They are accused of murdering A.J. by beating him after they forced him to stand in a cold shower “for an extended” period of time, according to the criminal complaint against the couple obtained by PEOPLE.

On April 18, A.J.’s father called 911 to report him missing, saying he put the child to bed the night before and when he woke up, the boy was gone.

AJ Freund, Andrew Freund
A.J. Freund and his father, A.J. Freund, Sr., 60. Family Photo; ABC

Police arrested Freund and Cunningham last Wednesday after showing them “forensic analysis of cell phone data,” which allegedly led the pair to divulge “information that ultimately led to the recovery” of A.J.’s body, Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black said at a press conference that day.

The child’s body was wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave in a remote area of Woodstock, which is about 7 miles away from the home where A.J. was last seen.

As details of the abuse the child allegedly suffered at the hands of his parents emerge, many are asking why the boy was allowed to stay in such allegedly unsafe conditions.

“I got the sense from what I read that the cops were essentially begging [DCFS] to take the child,” state Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, a Chicago Democrat who chairs the House Adoption and Child Welfare Committee, told the Associated Press. “There were so many calls made, so many signs of trouble and still nothing was done.”

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Autopsy results show he died of multiple blunt force injuries to the head, local ABC affiliate WLS, the Chicago Sun Times and other outlets report.

McHenry County Interim Coroner David Devane listed the child’s cause of death as “craniocerebral trauma as a consequence of multiple blunt force injuries,” WLS reports.

The state’s Department of Child and Family Services had visited the home at least 17 times since his birth, the department wrote in a timeline it released on Friday.

While in the ER on Dec. 18, 2018, the report says A.J. told the doctor, “Maybe someone hit me with a belt. “Maybe mommy didn’t mean to hurt me.

Unable to determine the cause of the bruise, the doctor determined that A.J. could have gotten it from “a dog, belt or football,” according to the DCFS timeline.

The case was closed a month later for lack of evidence.

The next time authorities were called to the home was on April 18, when A.J.’s father, Andrew Freund, Sr., 60, reported him missing.

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