CHICAGO (CBS) — Both of 5-year-old A.J. Freund’s parents, Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham, have been charged with murder, after a body believed to be the missing 5-year-old boy was found buried in a shallow grave near Woodstock, more than seven miles from his family’s home in Crystal Lake.
Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black said the body believed to be A.J.’s was found in a field Wednesday morning in unincorporated McHenry County near Woodstock, after police and the FBI questioned both parents overnight, after obtaining evidence from a forensic analysis of cell phone data.
“Once presented with the evidence obtained by investigators, both JoAnn and Andrew Sr. provided information that ultimately led to the recovery, what we believe is the recovery of deceased subject A.J.,” he said.
The boy’s body was buried in a shallow grave, wrapped in plastic. The cause of his death has not yet been determined, Black said.
Cunningham was charged with five counts of murder, four counts of aggravated battery, two counts of aggravated domestic battery, and one count of failure to report a missing child or child death.
Freund Sr. was charged with five counts of murder, two counts of aggravated battery, one count of aggravated domestic battery, two counts of concealing a homicide, and one count of failure to report a missing child or child death.
Authorities did not say who they believe killed A.J. Both parents were in police custody Wednesday afternoon, and due to appear in court on Thursday.
“To A.J.’s family, it is my hope that you may have some solace knowing that A.J. is no longer suffering, and his killers have been brought to justice,” Black said. “To A.J., we know you’re at peace playing in heaven’s playground, and are happy you no longer have to suffer.”
FBI Special Agent Jeffrey Sallet, the agency’s lead agent in Chicago, also offered his condolences to A.J.’s family and the Crystal Lake community, and thanked the law enforcement team that handled the investigation.
“This is not the outcome that we want to talk about when we come before you, but it is the unfortunate result in this investigation,” he said. “Listening to the emotion and the commitment that our folks as a team have exhibited over the last six days to bring justice really really brings a lot of emotion.”
A.J.’s parents reported him missing last Thursday morning, telling police they last saw him the night before, when they put him to bed. Police later said there was no sign of an abduction, and that Cunningham, was not cooperating with the investigation.
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Wednesday morning, police began searching a field near Dean Street and Gayle Drive in unincorporated McHenry County near Woodstock, about 7 1/2 miles west of the family’s home. Sources confirmed that is where the body was found Wednesday morning.
Earlier in the day, Cunningham’s attorney, George Kililis, was seen leaving the Crystal Lake Police Department, but declined to answer questions. Detectives also declined to confirm or deny if they were questioning either of A.J.’s parents.
Investigators also were back at the family’s home Wednesday morning, and were seen removing a shovel, the mattress from a child-sized bed, several large bags, and a large plastic bin, and loading them into an evidence team van. A McHenry County Animal Control team also removed a dog from the family’s home Wednesday morning.
Meantime, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services removed A.J.’s younger brother from the home after he went missing, placing him with another family. His mother, who is seven months pregnant, is seeking to regain custody, and a McHenry County judge was scheduled to appoint a new public guardian to represent the 3-year-old boy’s interests in court, with another custody hearing scheduled for next week.
Police reports released Tuesday indicate officers visited the family’s home 10 times over the past five years, often noting the poor condition of the home.
Seven months ago, last September, someone told police “the family was residing there without power and bad living conditions.”
When officers arrived, Cunningham wouldn’t let them inside. From the outside, they reported the grass being two feet tall. One officer said, “I could see the [electric] meter did not appear to be running.” He later wrote that Cunningham admitted she and the boys were living without power for some time.
The latest visit was this past December. An officer clearly stated the house is “cluttered, dirty and in disrepair.” Officers said they saw dog feces and urine throughout the house. This was in the middle of winter and officers said the windows were falling apart. The rooms were cold.
One officer said the “kitchen had only subflooring that was jagged and broken. He said the “ceiling in the kitchen appeared to have water damage and was peeling and open to the piping.” Another officer wrote “in the room where the boys slept, the window was open and the smell of feces was overwhelming.”
And when the officer saw the boys he said one had “… a large bruise on his right hip.” Cunningham “stated it must have been from the dog…”
Police on Tuesday also released the 911 call A.J.’s father made to report him missing last week. In the call, Andrew Freund Sr. told the dispatcher A.J. was put to bed around 9:30 the night before, and said he discovered his son missing when he went into his room to check in on him the next morning sometime between 8:15 and 8:30 a.m. after returning home from an early-morning doctor’s appointment.
Freund told the operator that he had conducted a thorough search for A.J., including checking the entire house and a canvass of the neighborhood, during the roughly 30 minutes the child had been missing before calling 911. He also told police all the doors and windows of the home on the 90th block of Dole Avenue in downtown Crystal Lake had been secured the night before.
Explore the timeline of his disappearance and follow developments in the case here.
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