A.J. Freund

‘Our little superhero’: Family of AJ Freund says he made the ‘ultimate sacrifice’ by dying to protect his siblings

Relatives of an Illinois boy found wrapped in plastic and buried allegedly at his parents hands are speaking out about the “little superhero” they believe selflessly acted to save his siblings.

As CrimeOnline previously reported, A.J. Freund’s body was found buried in a shallow grave last week, about a week after he was reported missing by his father. Both parents — 60-year-old Andrew Freund Sr. and 35-year-old JoAnn Cunningham — have been arrested on suspicion of killing him.

In a statement to People, an attorney for relatives other than the victim’s parents expressed agony over the loss.

How do you protect your children from predators? Join Nancy Grace and a team of world class experts for the online course ‘Justice Nation: Crime Stops Here’.

“We, the family that lovingly cared for Andrew (AJ) during the first 18 months of his life and were then to be in his life for another 26 months until the parents abruptly prevented us from having any further contact with him, want everyone to know that AJ was loved by us with all our hearts,” the statement read.

Attorney Peter Flowers further described the family as “grieving this week” in light of the horrific discovery. The family went on, however, to define the positive impact he left on those around him.

“With his brave short life, AJ made the ultimate sacrifice to save his younger brother and unborn sibling,” the statement continued. “His life shall not be in vain. AJ will always be our little superhero.”

Investigators zeroed in on the boy’s parents as suspects after conducting a “forensic analysis of cell phone data,” according to Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black. That information also “ultimately led to the recovery” of the victim’s body, he said.

Both remain behind bars with bond set at $5 million as of the latest reports available.

The rest of the young victim’s family members are left with the memories they made with him.

“While we had him in our lives, he had a happy, fun-loving life,” the statement concluded. “This smart little boy loved having books read to him, doing puzzles, his Thomas the Train, playing with his fire trucks, bulldozers, cement mixer, and Ninja Turtles. He was very curious and always wanted to learn about everything.”

Join Nancy Grace for her new online video series designed to help you protect what you love most – your children.

[Featured image: A.J. Freund, handout]