EDITOR’S NOTE: This article contains graphic details that may be upsetting to some readers.
Prosecutors have released police interview transcripts with AJ Freund’s father and also revealed that police recovered a video that the young boy’s mother recorded of herself choking AJ just weeks before his death.
JoAnn Cunningham, the mother of 5-year-old Andrew Freund, pleaded guilty Thursday morning to first-degree murder in her son’s beating death after prosecutors released a slew of evidence against the woman.
The McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office filed an 11-page document Thursday detailing the evidence against Cunningham along with interview transcripts when Andrew Freund Sr. spoke with police detectives.
Prosecutors said that Crystal Lake police were able to retrieve several videos from Cunningham’s iPhone and iCloud account following numerous subpoenas. Three videos taken in March 2019 by Cunningham showed evidence of AJ’s physical abuse.
During a March 4 video, police said that Cunningham recorded AJ as he laid on a bare mattress in a crib at their Crystal Lake home.
AJ appeared to have small white bandages covering areas on both his forearms and a cloth bandage wrapped loosely around his waist. There were wounds and bruises on his arms and waist. AJ is also holding a large blue ice pack over his face that when removed revealed severely swollen eyes covered with large dark and red bruising. During the video, Defendant Cunningham is berating AJ for soiling the mattress,” prosecutors said.
Prosecutors also detailed a March 27 video in which Cunningham confronted and choked AJ after he threatened to “get her in trouble with someone.”
At one point she tells him not to “bull**** her,” asking A) if he thinks she is “dumb and does not know the answers to the questions she is asking.” She then grabs him by the throat and pushes him against the wall, insisting that he tell her who he is going to get her in trouble with until AJ chokes for air,” prosecutors said.
“After AJ says he loves his family, Defendant Cunningham responds, “bullshit, you don’t show it.” Defendant Cunningham then positions her face inches from AJ’s, asking him if she, Parker, or Defendant Freund ‘do evil in this house’,” prosecutors said.
On April 24, Freund Sr. confessed to detectives after they found a search on his iPhone for “child CPR” following a search warrant. The boy’s father told police that AJ died at some point in the evening of April 14 after Cunningham had engaged in “some hitting” and AJ had been placed in a cold shower, prosecutors said.
It-it wasn’t intentional. Um. There were, in the past, um. Joanne would hit him and there often times I had to intercede and stop that from happening and I tried to convince Joanne that, that’s not the way to go, ok. And now he-he’s 5. So she had come up with the idea of putting him in like a cold shower as punishment,” Freund Sr. told detectives when explaining how AJ ended up in a cold shower.
Freund Sr. also told detectives that Cunningham punished AJ by putting him in the cold shower for 20 minutes because he hid underwear in which he had soiled.
“Um. I-I-S-I don’t remember it being as bad as other nights, where it was just pure, ya know, physical punishment, hitting,” Freund Sr. said in the interview.
Freund Sr. eventually took AJ out of the shower and put him to bed “naked and wet,” prosecutors said. Cunningham woke Freund Sr. up around 3 a.m. April 15 after she found that AJ was not breathing.
After realizing that AJ was dead, Freund Sr. told Cunningham he would “handle it” and placed AJ’s remains in a large plastic tote in the basement, prosecutors said. On April 17, he drove to a rural area outside of Woodstock where he buried them in a shallow grave, prosecutors said.
Dr. Mark Witeck, a forensic pathologist, revealed that AJ had multiple blunt force injuries to his head, torso and extremities. Dr. Witeck also noted the following:
“A) Severe swelling of head soft tissues with multiple bruises and abrasions; B) Severe swelling of brain; C) Multiple abrasions and contusions of torso and all four extremities; D) Bilateral inhaled blood in lungs; and E) Patterned injuries of small circular abrasions on central forehead (these circular abrasions matched the pattern of the detachable shower head’s spray face).”
Cunningham and Freund Sr. were both charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery, aggravated domestic battery and one count of failure to report a missing child or child death. Freund Sr. was also charged with concealment of a homicidal death.
The additional charges against Cunningham were dropped after she pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in a blind plea Thursday morning. She faces between 20 and 60 years in prison and must serve the entire sentence.
Cunningham, who will not be eligible for parole, is scheduled to appear for a status hearing on January 30. A sentencing date has not been set.
Andrew Freund Sr. and Cunningham both remain held in the McHenry County Jail on a $5 million bond.
Read the full 11-page factual basis document here