A reported friend of an Illinois woman accused of killing of her 5-year-old son, A.J. Freund, says she’s been receiving death threats after the public learned she was at the family home on the day the boy was reported missing.
“If I would have known what I know now I would have done a heck of a lot more,” the woman told the Chicago Tribune.
The woman’s name was not redacted in a police affidavit into the investigation of A.J.’s disappearance, which detailed text messages sent between her and A.J.’s mother, JoAnn Cunningham, 36. Cunningham and the boy’s father, 60-year-old Andrew Freund Sr., are currently behind bars in connection with the child’s death.
The woman said when she arrived to Cunningham’s Crystal Lake home on April 18, she had no idea A.J. was deceased. She said Cunningham only told her that the boy was missing.
She told police she was inside the home on the morning Freund Sr. reported A.J. missing. She “flew over there” after Cunningham told her A.J. had vanished. She also said she was the one that urged the parents to call 911.
The woman also said she was not as close to Cunningham as people have been making her out to be, and they generally communicated via texting. The outlet reports that the woman stood trembling in her garage while explaining that she has known Cunningham for a few years, but she never saw any bruising or signs of abuse on A.J. or his younger brother.
The woman said she did once see scarring on A.J.’s face, but Cunningham reportedly explained it away by saying he spilled hot water on himself. Regardless, the woman said numerous people have threatened her to the point that she fears for her safety and the safety of her family.
“Leave me alone, realize I am not part of this. I just want this to be over……People are assuming I knew everything. If I knew, why would I give the FBI my cellphone?”
As CrimeOnline previously reported, A.J. was found dead and buried in a shallow grave on April 24. Investigators found him on rural land close to Gayle Drive and Dean Street in Woodstock, Illinois.
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.
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.
According to court documents, Crystal Lake police later found a video of A.J. on his mother’s phone. Cunningham was apparently seen on the video scolding and screaming at the boy as he laid naked on a bare mattress, covered in bruises on his face and body.
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 when confronted with cellphone evidence, Freund Sr. said 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. allegedly 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.”
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.
[Feature Photo: A.J. Freund/Handout]