The search for a missing Illinois 5-year-old ended in tragedy Wednesday after investigators discovered what they believe to be the body of Andrew “AJ” Freund buried in a shallow grave in a remote area of Woodstock, Illinois.
The boy’s parents, JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr., have been arrested and charged with murder, among other charges, after investigators said information given to authorities by both parents led them to the body Wednesday.
Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black said although it was with a “heavy heart” he had to announce the news of the boy’s death, he was glad AJ was no longer suffering.
“We know you are at peace playing in heaven’s playground and are happy you no longer have to suffer,” he said in a message to the slain 5-year-old in a press conference held Wednesday afternoon.
The cause of death has not been determined, but the McHenry County coroner’s office was on the scene to help with the recovery efforts of the body. Black said the body was found wrapped in plastic in a shallow grave.
Both parents are in police custody. Cunningham has been charged with five counts of first-degree 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 first-degree murder, two counts of aggravated battery, one count of aggravated domestic battery, two counts of concealment of homicidal death and one count of failure to report missing or child death.
The boy’s father called 911 Thursday to report that his son was missing. He claimed that he had last seen AJ around 9:30 p.m. the night before as he was going to bed and that when he went up to check on him the next morning he was gone.
Investigators scoured the area surrounding the boy’s Crystal Lake home, but later announced they were focusing their efforts on AJ’s home and those who were last to spend time with him. They said forensic data from the parent’s cell phones was critical in helping break the case.
Black did not reveal any possible motive in the crime Wednesday and said they were withholding any further details in an effort not to compromise the integrity of the case.
He thanked fellow investigators for their tireless efforts to find AJ and said he hopes the arrests bring some sense of closure to the young boy’s family.
“It is my hope that you may have some solace to know that AJ is no longer suffering and his killers have been brought to justice,” he said.
Jeffrey Sallet, of the FBI, also spoke briefly commending police and FBI investigators for the commitment they showed to bring the suspected killers to justice.
“Talking through the investigation with my troops and the troops of the chief, it was apparent to me, that nobody was going to sleep, and nobody will sleep, until justice is brought for AJ,” he said. “This is the beginning of that process and the process of healing for your community, and for the family, but please know that local, state and federal law enforcement fall side by side to ensure that we follow through and that justice is served.”
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