Demonstration Planned During Hearing For A.J. Freund’s Parents, Charged With His Murder – CBS Chicago


CHICAGO (CBS) — A group of activists plans a demonstration at the McHenry County Courthouse on Tuesday, when the parents of 5-year-old A.J. Freund are due in court on murder charges. The group is seeking changes at the state’s child welfare agency for not doing more to protect the slain boy.

JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr. have pleaded not guilty after they were formally indicted on a combined 61 charges of murder, aggravated battery, and concealing a homicide in A.J.’s death in April. They are accused of beating him to death, burying him in a field, and reporting him missing in an effort to cover up the murder.

Andrew “A.J.” Freund has been reported missing from northwest suburban Crystal Lake. (Credit: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

A group called “ROAR For A.J.” plans a demonstration outside the McHenry County Courthouse on Tuesday during a hearing in their case. They have said they want justice for him, and changes at the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

They want the state’s child welfare agency held accountable for A.J.’s death. Four months before his death, a DCFS investigator deemed neglect allegations against A.J.’s mother unfounded, after a doctor could not pinpoint the cause of a mysterious bruise on the boy’s hip.

Police had called DCFS after A.J.’s mother, JoAnn Cunningham, had been arrested for driving on a suspended license in 2018, according to Crystal Lake Police Department reports. The officer had visited the family’s home, and noted not only was the house in deplorable condition, but A.J. was running around wearing only a pull-up and sporting a large bruise on his hip.

When a DCFS investigator arrived, A.J. said he suffered the bruise “when the family dog pawed him.” However, after going to the hospital to have the bruise checked, a doctor told the DCFS investigator A.J. claimed “maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe mommy didn’t mean to hurt me,” according to a DCFS timeline.

The doctor said he could not determine how A.J. was injured, stating the bruise “could have been caused by a dog, belt or a football,” according to the report.

The investigator released A.J. back into his parents’ custody, but advised his father to stay at home “as a safety precaution.”

JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr. have been charged with murder in the death of their son, 5-year-old A.J. Freund, whose body was found buried in a shallow grave seven miles from their home in Crystal Lake. (Source: McHenry County Jail)

The DCFS report also revealed significant discrepancies between the deplorable conditions police had found inside the home, and the conditions the DCFS investigator noted one day later. The investigator ultimately deemed allegations of neglect unfounded, “due to lack of evidence for cuts, welt and bruises allegation.”

The DCFS timeline also revealed that Cunningham was being investigated for her behavior as foster parent, before A.J. was born. In June, 2012, she was accused of abusing prescription drugs and neglecting her foster child.

Four months later, A.J.’s parents allegedly forced him into a cold shower for an extended period of time, and beat him to death. They reported him missing three days later, prompting a weeklong search that led to the discovery of his body wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave about seven miles from the family home in Crystal Lake.

Cunningham and Freund Sr. are being held on $5 million bond.

Cunningham was about seven months pregnant at the time of her arrest, and gave birth to a baby girl last week. The infant is now in state custody.