An affidavit filed in McHenry County court revealed heartbreaking details on how authorities cracked the case of 5-year-old Andrew “A.J.” Freund, a Crystal Lake, Illinois, boy reportedly killed by his own parents for urinating on himself.
ABC 7 reports that according to the newly-released affidavit, Crystal Lake police found a video of A.J. on his mother’s phone. JoAnn Cunningham, 36, was apparently seen on video scolding and screaming at the boy as he laid naked on a bare mattress, covered in bruises on his face and body.
Authorities said the video was taken in March, a month before they found the boy deceased and buried in a shallow grave in Woodstock, Illinois.
A.J.’s father, 60-year-old Andrew Freund Sr., reportedly told investigators that during the video, the little boy was being punished for urinating in his bed, then lying about “soiled underwear.”
“AJ is seen to (be) naked except for some small bandages around both wrists and circling his hips,” the affidavit read. “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.”
McHenry County sheriff’s Detective Edwin Maldonado stated that Freund Sr. told police they started putting A.J. in cold showers afterward, when Cunningham suggested giving the boy punishment without as many beatings. On the night before the boy died, on April 15, Freund Sr. forced the boy into an ice cold shower for 20 minutes before putting him to bed.
“JoAnn [wanted] to stop with the hard physical beatings and do some less violent form of punishment. Drew said cold showers was decided (as the alternative). Drew said on or about … 4/15/19, 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 20 minutes, and put AJ to bed ‘cold, wet, and naked.”
The following morning, Cunningham found A.J. unresponsive and reportedly searched for “cpr” on Freund Sr.’s phone. By then, it was too late. Freund Sr. told police that his son had died.
“Freund said the next day he took AJ’s body to the basement and stored him in a tote. He said on the night of 4/17/19 he placed Andrew inside of several trash bags, placed the body in the trunk of his car, and drove him to an area in Woodstock. Drew said he dug a shallow grave for AJ, placed him in it, covered it with straw, and left.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, the affidavit also read that AJ’s 4-year-old brother told investigators that Cunningham explained to him that AJ was not at home because he “fell down the stairs and had a lot of owies.”
Police said the suspects’ home had a strong smell of bleach when they searched it. They found what appeared to be a grocery shopping list on Cunningham’s cellphone, which listed items including bleach, plastic gloves, air freshener, and duct tape. They also found a pair of Freund Sr.’s shoes with “dripping wet mud” on them.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, 5-year-old A.J. was found dead and buried in a shallow grave on April 24. He died from numerous blunt force injuries to his head, according to the McHenry County Coroner’s Office.
McHenry County Interim Coroner David Devane, who released the boy’s official cause of death results, noted that A.J. had “craniocerebral trauma as a consequence of multiple blunt force injuries.” According to Mayo Clinic, craniocerebral trauma means a traumatic brain injury, typically caused by violent blows to the head.
Cunningham has been 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 or child death.
Freund Sr. has been charged with five counts of murder, two counts of aggravated battery, one count of aggravated domestic battery and one count of failure to report a missing or child death. He’s also charged with two counts of concealment of homicidal death, as authorities said he was the one that buried the boy in a neighboring town.
The discovery came exactly one week after Freund Sr. reported his son missing. The man called 911 and told the dispatcher that he couldn’t find A.J., and explained the last time he saw him was the previous night, in their home off of Dole Avenue in Crystal Lake.
Freund Sr. also told the dispatcher he had an early doctor’s appointment on the morning of April 18, but when he returned home between 8:15 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., his son was missing. The man said he thoroughly checked the home and the surrounding areas and couldn’t find A.J.
“I have no idea where he could be,” Freund said.
Authorities said from the beginning of the investigation that they didn’t believe the child was abducted, as a canine unit couldn’t place the child’s scent past the family’s home.
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[Feature Photo: A.J. Freund/Handout]