CHICAGO (CBS) — A McHenry County judge has set a December trial date for Andrew Freund Sr., the Crystal Lake man charged with killing his 5-year-old son, A.J., but prosecutors and defense attorneys expect to reach a plea deal next month to avoid a trial.

During a status hearing on Friday, McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt set a tentative Dec. 9 trial date for Freund, 61. But McHenry County Assistant State’s Attorney Randi Freese and Freund’s appointed attorney, special public defender Henry Sugden, don’t expect the case to go to trial.

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“I believe we will be able to resolve this on Sept. 16,” Freese told the judge.

Sugden declined to comment on the details of a possible plea deal, saying prosecutors have not yet formally offered an agreement.

“I’m still in discussions with the state,” Sugden said.

It’s not the first time Freund’s attorney has said he is working on a possible plea deal. Last October, he said said they had started working toward a negotiated plea, and his client was willing to cooperate with prosecutors.

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A.J.’s mother, JoAnn Cunningham, also was charged with the 5-year-old’s murder. She pleaded guilty in December, and was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

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A.J.’s parents were charged with a combined 61 counts in April 2019, including murder, aggravated battery, and concealing a homicide, after their son was found beaten to death and buried in a shallow grave in a field in Woodstock. An autopsy determined A.J. died of multiple blunt force injuries to his head.

Police and prosecutors say A.J.’s parents forced him into a cold shower as punishment for soiling his clothes, and severely beat him on April 15, 2019. His father later found him dead in his bed at their home in Crystal Lake and buried him in a shallow grave. A.J.’s parents falsely reported him missing three days later.

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For days, the community prayed A.J. was alive. But police found A.J.’s body wrapped in plastic in a shallow grave in Woodstock on April 24 after his father led authorities to the shallow grave. His parents later were charged with A.J.’s death.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff