Body of missing 5-year-old Illinois boy found, parents charged

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Andrew Freund Sr and JoAnn Cunningham Andrew Freund Sr and JoAnn Cunningham
JoAnn Cunningham, mother of 5-year-old child Andrew "AJ" Freund, with her attorney - April 19, 2019 (AP) JoAnn Cunningham, mother of 5-year-old child Andrew "AJ" Freund, with her attorney - April 19, 2019 (AP)
Andrew Freund Sr., the father of the 5-year-old Andrew "AJ" Freund - April 19, 2019 (AP) Andrew Freund Sr., the father of the 5-year-old Andrew "AJ" Freund - April 19, 2019 (AP)
CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (AP/CNN/KAKE) -

Authorities say they have found what they believe is the body of a 5-year-old Illinois boy who went missing last week, and that his parents have been charged with murder in his death.

Crystal Lake police Chief James Black said at a news conference Wednesday that police dug up what they believe is Andrew "AJ" Freund's body in a field and that it was wrapped in plastic.

He says AJ's parents, Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham, face murder and other charges in the boy's death.

"We know you are at peace playing in heaven's playground, and are happy you no longer have to suffer," Chief Black said.

Authorities say the boys' parents reported him missing last Thursday and told officers they last saw him at bedtime the night before.

Child welfare investigations

Police on Tuesday released 63 pages of reports detailing several police calls to Andrew's home in recent years. In December, for instance, an officer described unlivable conditions in the home with "dog feces and urine" scattered there.

The officer during the visit also reported a suspicious bruise on one of the children, but a child welfare worker was unable to make a determination of abuse, the report said. Someone at the house said it may have been caused by a dog.

Months earlier, a local resident called police to check on the children because the home had been without power for weeks, according to the reports. An officer wrote the two children appeared "healthy and happy" and that child welfare authorities said the lack of electricity did not warrant their investigation.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has "been involved with the family" since AJ's birth, department spokesman Jassen Strokosch told CNN. AJ "was brought into care with us" soon after he was born, when "neglect was indicated on part of the mom," Strokosch said. From 2013 to 2015, the infant was in the care of someone else, he said.

The department was called in twice in 2018 on allegations of neglect in March and of abuse and neglect in December, Strokosch said. The allegations were determined to be unfounded in both instances, he said.

A younger sibling who had been in the home until this week is now living with another family, Strokosch said.

Parents spoke to the media

Andrew Freund Sr. late last week spoke to TV cameras saying they were extremely worried about their son.

"AJ, please come home," his father said. "We love you very much. You're not in any trouble. We're just worried to death. Please, please come home."

George Kililis, an attorney for Cunningham, told CNN affiliate WLS the boy's mother "doesn't know what happened to AJ, and had nothing to do with the disappearance of AJ. Ms. Cunningham is worried sick. She is devastated."


Previous story:

The body of a 5-year-old suburban Chicago boy who's been missing for nearly a week has been found, authorities say.

Police sources told Chicago news outlets that Andrew "AJ" Freund's body was recovered Wednesday morning on private property in Woodstock, not far from his home in Crystal Lake. 

Police have spoken with neighbors in the area to check if they had seen anything suspicious, WLS reports. 

"It's still kind of really unbelievable," said neighbor Patrick DeFrancisco. "When it happens to a child, it kind of hits home and it gets you right at the heart." 

Photos and video showed officers leaving the Crystal Lake home of Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham on Wednesday with a shovel, mattress, brown paper bags and plastic storage tub.

Cunningham was inside police station for several hours. Her attorney was seen leaving the police station and had no comment.

Authorities say the boys' parents reported him missing last Thursday and told officers they last saw him at bedtime the night before.

Police say Cunningham has been refusing to cooperate with detectives. They say they don't believe the boy was abducted and that he didn't leave the home on foot. State child welfare officials have taken custody of the couple's 4-year-old son, Parker.

The FBI and police were planning a news conference at 1 p.m. Watch it on the KAKE-TV Facebook page.

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