We’re incrementally closer to what we may have no choice but to accept as justice for AJ.
I’ve written extensively about AJ’s case in the past and featured his case twice on Suffer the Little Children Podcast (episode 1 and episode 22). His was the case I covered first, both on the blog and the podcast. The little blond boy from Illinois has a huge piece of my heart.
AJ’s mother, JoAnn Cunningham, was sentenced in July to 35 years in state prison after pleading guilty in December to charges alleging she beat her five-year-old son, Andrew Thomas “AJ” Freund, to death with a showerhead in April of 2019. She is incarcerated at the Logan Correctional Facility in Lincoln.
At a brief court hearing this morning, Andrew “Drew” Freund Sr. appeared in an orange jail jumpsuit and a white face mask beside his attorney, Henry “Hank” Sugden, who told Judge Robert Wilbrandt that he and his client are in negotiations with the state.
When the judge asked the prosecution team if that was true, it was confirmed by Assistant State’s Attorney Randi Freese, who said they are in the midst of active negotiations with Drew and his lawyer. Judge Wilbrandt scheduled a negotiated plea hearing for Friday, September 18 at 1:30 PM.
If negotiations fall apart, the case will proceed to a bench trial, which is scheduled to begin at 9:00 AM on December 9, 2020. If Drew is convicted at that trial, it is likely he would be sentenced to life in prison.
Drew is also charged in AJ’s murder, although it is believed the act itself was carried out by JoAnn. Drew, who currently faces multiple criminal charges, has been accused of hiding AJ’s body in a plastic tote after his death on or around April 15, 2019 before burying the little boy, wrapped in plastic, in a shallow grave several miles from the family’s dilapidated, trash-filled home at 94 Dole Avenue in Crystal Lake, Illinois. On April 18, Drew called 911 to report AJ missing, sparking a massive, multiple-agency search over the next several days. On April 24, Drew led police to his son’s body.
The house has since been condemned and demolished.
According to the McHenry County Coroner, AJ’s death was a homicide caused by multiple blunt force injuries. His brain swelled so severely it herniated, causing his death as he lay where his mother left him: in his bed, cold, wet, naked, and alone. It’s heartbreaking to think about. The one mercy is that once he was unconscious, he probably didn’t feel any more pain.
The 41 charges against Drew include murder, aggravated battery of a child, aggravated domestic battery, concealment of a homicide, failure to report a child’s death, obstruction of justice by destroying evidence, and unlawful restraint. Police photos revealed that AJ’s bedroom was padlocked from the outside, his windows screwed shut, and there was also a lock on the outside of his closet door.
I have to assume that with a plea agreement, most of Drew’s 41 charges will be dropped, and he will be sentenced to even less prison time than JoAnn was. Her sentence caused a public outcry, especially after some of the audio we heard during JoAnn’s sentencing hearing.
I’ll keep an eye on this and provide an update on Friday, if available.
Last week, two DCFS workers who handled AJ’s case, both of whom left the child protection agency in December of last year, were arrested and charged with felony child endangerment and reckless conduct. They were both released on bail the same evening.
Click here for my ongoing coverage of AJ’s case.
Sources: Northwest Herald, ABC7