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AJ Freund's Parents Plead Not Guilty To Beating 5-Year-Old To Death

Investigators have said the 5-year-old was beaten to death after being forced into a frigid shower as punishment for soiling his pants.

By Jill Sederstrom
‘Maybe Mommy Didn’t Mean To Hurt Me,’ AJ Freund Told Doctor

The parents of Andrew “AJ” Freund pleaded not guilty Friday to beating their 5-year-old son to death and plan to try the case before a jury.

Andrew Freund, 60, and JoAnn Cunningham, 36, are accused of killing AJ, then reporting him missing, sparking a massive manhunt for the 5-year-old.

His body was later discovered wrapped in plastic in a shallow grave near Woodstock, nearly a week after he was first reported missing.

A McHenry County grand jury formally indicted the pair Thursday on 20 counts each, including charges of murder, concealment and battery for the Crystal Lake boy’s death according to WMAQ-TV.

The indictment also charges them with aggravated battery to a child under 13 causing permanent disability after a video surfaced on Cunningham’s cell phone of another alleged beating of the boy in March, according to The Chicago Tribune

The pair will also face charges of reckless conduct, unlawful restraint and child endangerment for a separate incident in September 2018.

Earlier this week, Freund’s public defender requested a psychological evaluation for his client, WGN reports. The defense has also requested a gag order in the case to prevent any further statements about the case being released to the media.

Investigators have alleged that AJ died after his parents forced him to take a cold shower as punishment for soiling his clothes and then brutally beat him on April 15, killing the young boy, according to local station WBBM-TV.

A.J. Freund

AJ had been removed from the home shortly after his birth after opiates were found in his system. He was eventually returned to his parents—and despite multiple calls to police and Illinois Department of Children and Family Services’—he remained in their custody until his death.

Two DCFS case workers had reportedly investigated the home in the last year, but both were significantly overloaded with cases, according to The Chicago Tribune. On one occasion in December, AJ allegedly told an emergency doctor “maybe Mommy didn’t mean to hurt me” after a police officer had discovered a large bruise on his hip.

A DCFS investigator didn’t find any harm and AJ remained in the custody of his parents.

The DCFS investigator and supervisor involved in that incident have since been placed on administrative duty while the office conducts an internal investigation.

Both parents are being held in the McHenry County jail on $5 million bail.