The father of AJ Freund has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the five-year-old’s horrific murder, after the little boy’s parents forced him into a cold shower and beat him to death before burying his body in a shallow grave and reporting him missing.
Andrew Freund Sr., 61, of Crystal Lake, Illinois, pleaded guilty Friday to three felony charges of involuntary manslaughter, aggravated battery to a child, and concealment of a homicide over AJ’s slaying, as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.
He spoke only to say ‘Yes, your honor’ when McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt asked him if he was pleading guilty to the reduced charges and declined to make a statement.
AJ died in April 2019 after suffering a campaign of abuse at the hands of Freund Sr. and his mom JoAnn Cunningham, 37, for years.
Cunningham pleaded guilty last year to murder and in July was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Two former Illinois social workers have been also been charged with child endangerment, accused of failing to protect the little boy despite visible signs of abuse and police complaints in the months leading up to his death.
The father of AJ Freund has been sentenced to 30 years in prison for the five-year-old’s horrific murder, after the little boy’s parents forced him into a cold shower and beat him to death before burying his body in a shallow grave and reporting him missing. Pictured Andrew Freund Sr., 61 in court last month
Attorneys for Freund Sr. reached the deal with prosecutors this week, where the boy’s father pleaded to the three felony charges in exchange for prosecutors dropping the first-degree murder charges against him.
He was sentenced to 14 years for involuntary manslaughter, 11 years for aggravated battery, and 5 years for concealment of a homicide, with the sentences to be served consecutively.
Freund Sr. will be given credit for time served, having been held in custody since April last year.
He could walk free after serving just 19 years because of sentencing rules, Judge Wilbrandt said during Friday’s sentencing.
Under the terms of the deal, Freund Sr. must cooperate with investigators in the case against the two social workers.
He will also have to register as a violent offender and take part in behavioral interviews for the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit.
A deal had been in the pipeline for some time with Freund Sr.’s defense attorney Henry Sugden in talks with prosecutors for almost a year.
It suggests prosecutors believe the felon’s repeated claims that it was Cunningham who killed their son.
During the hearing, prosecutor Patrick Kenneally read out details about Freund’s abuse of AJ, what he saw Cunningham do to the little boy and his statements to police during their investigation into his disappearance and death.
AJ (pictured) died in April 2019 after suffering a campaign of abuse at the hands of Freund Sr. and his mom JoAnn Cunningham, 37, for years
Andrew Freund Sr.(left), 61, of Crystal Lake, Illinois, pleaded guilty Friday to three felony charges, as part of a plea deal with prosecutors. JoAnn Cunningham (right) pleaded guilty last year to murder and in July was sentenced to 35 years in prison
Kenneally told how Freund lied to police about not knowing where the little boy was, after he and Cunningham reported him missing three days after his brutal murder.
The father made a chilling 911 call where he feigned concern for his missing son while knowing he was already dead.
‘We’ve checked closets, the basement, the garage, everywhere,’ Freund told the dispatcher.
He said he scoured the park, a nearby school and a ‘local gas station down here where we sometimes take him to buy treats.’
The elaborate cover-up continued with Freund sending Cunningham texts reading ‘give the boys a kiss and hug for me’ in the hope that law enforcement would discover them and believe the boy was alive in the days after his killing.
After AJ’s body was found, Freund later tried to distance himself from the abuse and his son’s death, blaming Cunningham.
He told cops Cunningham killed AJ and that he was not present at the home at the time.
AJ’s body was found buried in a shallow grave in woodlands near the family home
Tributes to murdered 5-year-old boy AJ Freund outside his family home in Crystal Lake, Illinois
He then said Cunningham woke him at 3 a.m. on April 15 to tell him AJ wasn’t breathing and that he tried to revive the boy before realizing he was dead.
Freund wrapped his son’s body in plastic and left it in the basement of the family home for two days before burying his remains in a shallow grave in Woodstock two days later.
Freund later led investigators to the spot where the boy was buried.
When confronted about a video on Cunningham’s cellphone showing AJ battered and bruised and lying naked on a mattress while a woman thought to be Cunningham shouting at him for wetting the bed, Freund told investigators Cunningham had beaten him.
He said he had suggested punishing the boy with cold showers instead of beatings.
AJ died on April 14 after Cunningham hit the child and placed him in a cold shower until he would admit the truth about hiding his soiled underwear.
Cunningham then locked AJ in his room, where with his brain swelling, he choked on his own blood and died.
After discovering the boy was not breathing at around 3 a.m. on April 15, police said the couple searched for information on child CPR on Freund’s phone.
Carlos Acosta (left), a 54-year-old McHenry County board member, was charged with two felony counts of endangering the life of a child and one felony count of reckless conduct. Andrew Polovin, 48, (right) was Acosta’s former supervisor, and was arrested on the same charges
Photos of the Freund’s home showed a state of disarray, with garbage and dog feces on floor
Freund then told Cunningham he would ‘handle it,’ placing AJ’s body in a plastic tote in the basement and burying him days later.
Freund then called 911 early April 18, 2019, to report AJ missing.
Cunningham pleaded for help finding the boy the day after he was reported missing.
After a frantic six-day search, his battered remains were unearthed from a shallow grave about seven miles from his home in Woodstock.
A forensic pathologist who conducted the child’s autopsy described fatal head injuries and cuts and bruises across his entire body and limbs.
AJ inhaled his own blood before his painful death and had small, circular marks on his forehead consistent with the pattern of a detachable shower head.
‘It’s a pretty bad case,’ testified Dr Mark Witeck, who estimated he has conducted some 7,000 autopsies throughout his career.
‘Not the worse one I’ve seen but very bad.’
Earlier this month, two Crystal Lake social workers were arrested on child endangerment charges, after a grand jury returned an indictment.
Carlos Acosta, a 54-year-old McHenry County board member, was charged with two felony counts of endangering the life of a child and one felony count of reckless conduct.
Cunningham hit AJ (pictured) and placed him in a cold shower after he soiled his underwear. The boy was then locked in a room, where he choked on his own blood and died
Cunningham, with her attorney George Killis, pictured pleading on April 19 2019 for help finding the missing boy after she beat him to death days earlier
Andrew Polovin, 48, was Acosta’s former supervisor, and was arrested on the same charges.
Both men had their bail set at $20,000 and were expected to be arraigned on Friday morning at the McHenry County Jail in Woodstock, Illinois.
The pair were placed on desk duties after the little boy’s death and in December they were fired by the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS).
DCFS employees are granted some immunity from civil and criminal charges under the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act.
Illinois law clarifies that anyone making a report of child abuse or neglect is presumed to have done so in good faith.
Both Acosta and Polovin were involved in an investigation into a large bruise spotted on the child’s hip, four months before he was killed.
Acosta and Polovin’s 2018 investigation involving AJ’s family also is the subject of a federal lawsuit in which both men are named as defendants.
Both former employees are accused in court documents of conducting a ‘sham investigation’ and falsifying records.