Dad of AJ Freund jailed for 30 years after boy, 5, forced into freezing shower and beaten to death for wetting himself
THE father of AJ Freund has been sentenced to decades in prison after the five-year-old’s brutal beating death last year.
AJ died in April 2019 after his prosecutors said his parents, Andrew Freund Sr, 61, and JoAnn Cunningham, 37, punished him for wetting himself.
As a result, he was left with severe brain swelling.
Freund on Friday pleaded guilty to felony charges of aggravated battery of a child, involuntary manslaughter, and concealment of a homicidal death.
Prosecutors agreed to then drop the first-degree murder charges against him related to AJ’s death, and he was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Because of sentencing rules, the judge said Freund could get out after serving less than 19 years.
JoAnn Cunningham pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and in July, was sentenced to 35 years behind bars.
AJ’s death drew national media headlines after Freund Sr reported the boy was missing from the family’s home in Crystal Lake, Illinois, prompting a massive search.
But detectives later found a video on Cunningham’s phone – dated March 4, 2019 – that showed bruises all over AJ’s body, which was covered in bandages.
A woman in the video, believed to be Cunningham, was heard screaming at and berating AJ for wetting himself on the bed.
During the dad’s hearing on Friday, a prosecutor read statements that Freund told detectives – saying Cunningham had killed AJ.
Freund said he was called on April 15, 2019, to the house by Cunningham, who said AJ wasn’t breathing.
He told police Cunningham used a shower head to hit AJ as punishment him for wetting the bed.
The dad said that he tried reviving the five-year-old but ultimately kept the boy’s body in a plastic tote in the family’s house before burying the body two days later.
After AJ’s body was found, Freund tried to minimize the role he played in the boy’s death.
He also claimed to detectives that he had suggested Cunningham should force him to take cold showers instead of beating him.
Authorities said Freund frantically called 911 to report AJ missing, despite knowing he was already dead.
“We’ve checked closets, the basement, the garage, everywhere,” Freund told the dispatcher.
He had said he scoured the park, a nearby school, and a “local gas station down here where we sometimes take him to buy treats.”
Police then discovered texts between Freund and Cunningham after AJ was killed; cops said they believe the parents wanted them to find the messages.
“Give the boys a kiss and hug for me,” Freund texted Cunningham, referring to AJ and his brother.
Four months before his death, AJ was examined by doctors after cops were tipped off that he was being neglected and was covered in “cuts, welts, and bruises."
When asked about his injuries, AJ told medics “maybe mommy didn't mean to hurt me” and “maybe someone hit me with a belt."
An autopsy of AJ’s body revealed the boy had multiple blunt force injuries to his head, torso, and extremities, and had severe brain swelling.
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