Andrew 'AJ' Freund, 5, April 15, 2019, Crystal Lake, McHenry County, IL



They waited three full days after AJ's murder to call 911 and report AJ 'missing'. Andrew reported on that call that the last time he had seen AJ the night before, at home. Andrew reported that he woke up that morning and attended a doctor's appointment, returning home to find AJ gone.


The Crystal Lake Police Department took immediate action at the residence deploying all resources to find AJ. Scent dogs came to the residence, unable to catch any scent of AJ outside of the residence. They then found a video on JoAnn's phone that showed AJ being yelled at, laying naked on the mattress with bruises all over his face and body, for simply urinating on the bed.


The Crystal Lake Police Department called in 15 other law enforcement agencies including the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the Federal Bureau of Investigations for resources. Drones, dogs, boats with sonars, and foot searches including about 500 acres were searched.



News reports read in the affidavit that “AJ is seen to be naked except for some small bandages around both wrists and circling his hips,”


“AJ is seen to be holding an ice pack to his face and when he removes it he is seen to have deep red bruising around his eyes, and yellowish-green bruising around his neck and upper chest. It did not appear from the video that AJ received professional medical attention.”


Andrew then said they started putting AJ into cold showers to avoid as many physical beatings. “JoAnn wanted to stop with the hard physical beatings and do some less violent form of punishment. Andrew said on or about April 15, 2019 AJ had lied about soiled underwear and he was subjected to a cold shower. Drew said he helped AJ out of the shower after he’d been there approximately twenty minutes, and put AJ to bed ‘cold, wet, and naked.” They left him as AJ died alone. The next morning, JoAnn and Andrew found him dead.


They then put little AJ's body into a tote and left the body in the basement. Then April 17, 2019 Andrew put his little body into several trash bags, placed it in the trunk of the car and drove to Woodstock, dug a shallow grave where they left AJ, covered it with straw, and left.


During the days of searching for AJ, A woman friend of JoAnn arrived at the residence April 18 after JoAnn told her that AJ was missing. The unidentified woman claimed to not have known what AJ had been suffering prior to his disappearance, and that she had no idea he was deceased. She said she never saw any signs of abuse to AJ or his brother.


Days went by with his biological parents pleading to the public to bring him home safe stating he 'wasn't in any trouble'. While this didn't phase the Crystal Lake Police Department and other agencies, as they knew their gut was right.



On April 24, AJ was found seven miles from his home buried in a shallow grave in a rural area near Gayle Drive and Dean Street in Woodstock, Illinois.


The cause of death showed that AJ had 'craniocerebral trauma as a consequence of multiple blunt force injuries.


36-year-old JoAnn and 60-year-old Andrew Cunningham were charged in AJ's disappearance and murder, held on a five-million-dollar bond. Both initially pleaded not guilty.


JoAnn Cunningham, at the time, was engaged to a man, thirty-six-year-old Daniel Nowicki, who later died of a suspected drug overdose in Kokomo, Indiana. When JoAnn was charged with murder, she was about 7 months pregnant with Daniel's child. While Daniel was not involved in AJ's death, he was pushed into the media spotlight. He was living with the Cunningham's and their children in 2018. He was the father of the baby JoAnn had while she was in jail awaiting trial. He had his own criminal-related issues and was in the McHenry County Jail at the time AJ was murdered for an unrelated incident.





DCFS AND THEIR FAILURE WITH AJ AND HIS BROTHER

The Department of Children & Family Services failed once again. This time, the public took notice. This family had been involved with DCFS since 2013, all the while, all these reports fell to the wayside, from the beginning, when in October 2013 AJ was born with opiates in his system. He was removed from their custody and placed in to foster care until he went back home June 2015. There were 17 visits to AJ's home during his 5 years of life. That's 17 times this child was failed. That's 17 times DCFS could have saved these children. That's 17 times that could have ensure AJ had a chance at life.


March 2018 another report of neglect, allegations concluded to be 'unfounded'.


December 2018 JoAnn reported to police that Andrew stole her cell phone and medication. When police got their they found dog feces and urine throughout the home. One of the children had a bruise but couldn't determine there was abuse. Kids remained with the parents.


Another child's death under the government paid watchful eye of DCFS.


CHARGES BROUGHT TO TWO DCFS EMPLOYEES ON AJ'S CASE

Andrew Polovin and former DCFS caseworker Carlos Acosta, 54, who investigated AJ’s treatment, both were indicted by a grand jury.


Andrew Polovin & Carlos Acosta have both been charged with (1) causing children endangerment / death, (2) circumstances endangering or death (3) reckless conduct causing great bodily harm. While this does not change the history of either of their careers or personal lives, it does show that they may at least in part responsible in keeping AJ (and his brother) safe. This court continues as of March 2022) for both defendants and are constantly continued by both defendants.

Pleading for AJ to come home

Living where he belongs

Andrew's Attorney told the public that he 'wasn't really part of the beatings' but 'allowed things to continue that he shouldn't have'. This is something that the prosecutors 'considered' during sentencing, because he told them what happened to AJ at his death, and told them where AJ was buried. Even though Andrew is just as guilty for the abuse, kept AJ's abuse a secret, his death a secret, his 'special consideration' is shameful at best.


INITIAL CHARGES FOR ANDREW FREUND

5 counts of murder (all dismissed)

Count 6 Aggravated Battery to a Child under 13

Count 7 Domestic Battery

Count 8 Aggravated Battery to a Child under 13 with bodily harm

Count 9 & 10 Concealment of a Homicidal Death

Count 11 failure to report the death of a child under 13 within 24 hours

Count 12 endangering the life or health of a child

Count 13 Unlawful restraint

Count 14 Concealment of a death/moving body

Count 15 False alarm / complaint to 911

Count 16 Abuse of a corpse/remove without authorization

Count 17 Obstruction of justice / destroying evidence

Count 18 Parent giving false information of a child under 13

Count 19 Aggravated battery of a child under 13 with permanent disability

Count 20 Aggravated Domestic Battery

Count 21 Aggravated battery of a child under 13 with great bodily harm

Count 22 Reckless conduct with great bodily harm

Count 23 unlawful restraint

Count 24 Cause of child to be endangered


All 24 counts were 'dismissed'. The following charges were the indictment charges:

Count 1, Aggravated battery to a child under 13 with permanent disability

Count 2 Involuntary manslaughter

Count 3 Concealment of a homicidal death


Andrew was entered into the Illinois Department of Corrections on 12/01/2020

His projected parole date is 02/26/2038 (yes 18 years for brutally abusing and killing a baby)

He is projected to be released from prison on 02/28/2041

This is what a plea deal looks like.




INITIAL CHARGES FOR JOANN CUNNINGHAM

Count 1 Murder with intent to kill or injure

Count 2 Murder with strong probability to kill or injure

Count 3 Murder with other forcible felony

Count 4 Murder with other forcible felony

Count 5 Murder with other forcible felony

Count 6 Aggravated battery of a child under 13 with permanent disability

Count 7 aggravated domestic battery

Count 8 aggravated battery child under 13 with great bodily harm

Count 9 Failure to report the death of a child under 13 within 24 hours

Count 10 Aggravated battery to a child under 13 with permanent disability

Count 11 Aggravated domestic battery

Count 12 Aggravated battery to a child under 13 with great bodily harm

Count 13 Concealment of a homicidal death

Count 14 Circumstance causing to endangerment or death of a child

Count 15 Unlawful restraint

Count 16 Concealment of a death / moving body

Count 17 Abuse of a corpse / removing body without authorization

Count 18 Obstruction of justice / destroying evidence

Count 19 Parent giving false information of a child under 13

Count 20 Reckless conduct causing great bodily harm

Count 21 Unlawful restraint

Count 22 Causing a child to be endangered


21 of these counts were 'dismissed'. The following charges were the indictment charges:

Count 2 Murder with strong probability to kill or injure


JoAnn was entered into the Illinois Department of Corrections on 8/04/2020

Her projected parole date is 04/24/2054 (34 years)

Her projected date to be released from prison on 04/24/2057


These child killers get to live in prison and live life after prison on the street while little AJ will never get a chance to live.
The damage caused to AJ's brother will be eternal, and far greater than anything these child killers will ever endure.

OBITUARY


Born October 14, 2013, Andrew “AJ” Freund had a smile that could light up a room—and a personality to match. He was a loving, affectionate and outgoing little boy, a virtual ray of sunshine to all who knew him, with a giggle and laugh that was uniquely his. AJ, now an angel to all of us, will be forever remembered in the hearts of everyone he touched—friends, family and people near and far throughout our community.

AJ took very seriously his role as a brother to both of his siblings. You could often find him hugging and wrestling with his younger brother, watching over him always. Like many boys their age, the pair loved to play outside and indoors, you would find him drawing, reading books or putting puzzles together. Of course, a photo always had to be taken to document his latest puzzle achievement! AJ would sit and play Legos for hours and was an extremely smart and friendly boy who could not wait to start kindergarten in the fall and make new friends.

To honor AJ, a public walk-through visitation will be Friday, May 3, from 1p.m. until 8 p.m. at Davenport Family Funeral Home and Crematory, 419 E. Terra Cotta Ave. (Rte. 176), Crystal Lake. Overflow parking will be at Willow Creek Community Church, 100 S Main St, Crystal Lake, with bus service to and from the funeral home.

To give a memorial in AJ’s name, see the link below. If you have further questions, you are welcome to call the funeral home at 815-459-3411. AJ’s family and friends would like to the thank the people of Crystal Lake and surrounding communities for their overwhelming generosity, prayers and outpouring of love and support. As untimely and tragic as his young death is, may AJ’s passing bring more awareness to all of us, and hope to and for children everywhere.


AJ was buried at the Saint Michael The Archangel Catholic Cemetery in Palatine, Cook County, Illinois


OUR TAKE

When AJ disappeared, there was mass reporting across the state, and shortly thereafter, nationwide. There was no Amber Alert because police knew this was not an abduction. Remember, the Amber Alert is supposed to be for children that are abducted, regardless of them being in danger. No evidence of abduction means no Amber Alert.


The Crystal Lake Police Department took immediate action without hesitation to bring in every available resource, all agencies that participate in child cases such as AJ's, and provided the media with enough information to put out his disappearance, never revealing the true nation of AJ's disappearance until it was necessary, which is, when AJ's body was located.


The community of Crystal Lake took action, which was critical during the disappearance and well after. The community searched, held vigils and spoke to the media. When the whole story came out, they provided outrage against the shameful parents, and shouted about DCFS until the government finally took a voice to the stage stating they were going to do something about these failures. They ensure that the media look into these parents and to the failures of DCFS. Because of the noise this community made, charges were brought to two employees of DCFS that were in charge of AJ's safety and well-being. They helped us all know that AJ was missing. This community ensured that the house where his parents murdered him would be tore down. If every community reacted to the missing the way this community did for AJ, we would not need to be here.


The Crystal Lake Police Department and their community brought AJ to life, the reality of his disappearance and death, and forever kept him as the little 5 year old boy that none of us would ever forget.


The funeral services were donated by Davenport Family Funeral Home, the cost of cemetery burial was donated by the cemetery, and the casket was donated by the casket company. Actions like this for our children (and adults) that were murdered helps the family in the worst moments of their lives. We thank and appreciate them for their additional efforts for AJ.


Green Demolition offered the demolition of the house where AJ's life was taken, at 94 Dole Avenue in Crystal Lake for free. They didn't know anyone and did not want to bid for the job. They knew the right thing to do was to rid that house forever. According to reports, other companies including a fencing company, garbage haulers, a land filler and others also donated their time to complete this project.


As for the father receiving a shameful 11 or so years in prison, we feel that is a slap on the wrist to him and a slap in the face to AJ and his loved ones. It will never be understood why there would be a plea agreement at all unless that was the only condition in which the missing body could be found. Andrew and JoAnn both confessed when they were confronted with Andrew's phone records proving that they had killed AJ. She only received 35 years and he received 11, all the while, both of them causing him abuse and neglect for years, both of them causing his death, both of them concealing his death, moving his body, getting rid of the evidence and burying him.


These children are of course innocent, and yet they are thrown back to the wolves by DCFS because they somehow believe that 'children raised with their parents are best'. The thousands of innocent children brought back to these parents who are violent, abused and/or neglected toward their children should never be brought back to them. The system is not just flawed. This system is taking our children's innocence, their childhood, and in some cases, their lives.

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