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A.J. Freund's Parents Accused Of Killing And Burying 5-Year-Old Three Days Before Reporting Him Missing

CHICAGO (CBS) -- At a bond hearing on murder charges Thursday morning, prosecutors said A.J. Freund's parents killed and buried the 5-year-old boy three days before they reported him missing. According to prosecutors, Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham forced their son to stand in a cold shower for an extended period of time, and repeatedly beat him.

A.J.'s body was found Wednesday morning, wrapped in plastic, and buried in a shallow grave near Woodstock, about 7 miles from his family's home in Crystal Lake.

His parents, 36-year-old JoAnn Cunningham and 60-year-old Andrew Freund Sr., have been charged with his murder. They had told police they put him to bed on the night of April 17, and found him gone the next morning, but according to court documents, they killed him on April 15.

Both parents appeared separately in court for bond hearings, represented by public defenders. Cunningham, who is seven months pregnant, was dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit and appeared to be fighting back tears as the judge read the charges against her. Freund Sr. appeared calm as he faced the judge minutes later.

According to court documents, both parents forced A.J. to stay in a cold shower "for an extended period of time" and struck him repeatedly on his body on April 15, and then A.J.'s father buried the boy's body later that day.

Cunningham also faces aggravated battery charges for allegedly beating A.J. on March 4, causing "great bodily harm."

Cunningham-Freund Mugs
JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr. have been charged with murder in the death of their son, 5-year-old A.J. Freund, whose body was found buried in a shallow grave seven miles from their home in Crystal Lake. (Source: McHenry County Jail)

A.J.'s official cause of death is blunt force trauma to the brain, according to the McHenry County Coroner.

A judge set both parents' bond at $5 million, meaning they would have to pay 10 percent of that amount and a $28 sheriff's fee to be released from custody. If they post bail, they would be placed on electronic monitoring, would be prohibited from having any contact with each other or anyone under age 17, must surrender any firearms, and would have to submit to random drug tests.

Cunningham has been charged with five counts of murder, four counts of aggravated battery, two counts of aggravated domestic battery, and one count of failure to report a missing child or child death.

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Freund Sr. has been charged with five counts of murder, two counts of aggravated battery, one count of aggravated domestic battery, two counts of concealing a homicide, and one count of failure to report a missing child or child death.

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George Kililis, an attorney who had been representing Cunningham during the investigation, said he will no longer represent her in any way moving forward.

Crystal Lake police said A.J.'s parents provided information Wednesday morning that led to the discovery of his body wrapped in plastic in a shallow grave on private property near Woodstock, about seven miles from their home.

"To A.J.'s family, it is my hope that you may have some solace knowing that A.J. is no longer suffering, and his killers have been brought to justice," Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black said Wednesday. "To A.J., we know you're at peace playing in heaven's playground, and are happy you no longer have to suffer."

Andrew AJ Freund
Andrew "A.J." Freund has been reported missing from northwest suburban Crystal Lake. (Credit: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

Following several days of searching, investigators removed several pieces of evidence from the home Wednesday morning, including a shovel and a mattress. Animal control officers also removed the family's dog from the home.

The family has a lengthy history with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, after A.J. was born with opiates in his system in 2013. DCFS placed A.J. in foster care in 2013 when he was about a month old, but returned him to his parents about 18 months later. Two later complaints to DCFS about abuse and neglect were deemed unfounded.

The couple's 3-year-old son was removed from the home after A.J. went missing, and has been placed with another family under a DCFS safety plan. Cunningham had gone to court to regain custody of A.J.'s younger brother before she was charged.

Police also visited the home 10 times over the past five years, often noting the poor condition of the home. According to police reports, officers found the family living without power seven months ago, and then in December found the house was filled with dog feces, urine, and clutter; and with broken flooring and windows.

Explore the timeline of his disappearance and follow developments in the case here.

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