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The following is a very tragic story. Reader discretion advised.
Little AJ Freund died last week. He was five. He had been born with opiates in his system and was taken into custody by Illinois DCFS for a year and a half. He was then returned to his mother.
AJ’s mom met his dad when she was getting a divorce. JoAnn Cunningham hired Andrew Freund, Sr. to represent her during the proceedings. She wasn’t supposed to take anything out of her soon-to-be ex-husband’s home, but she and Freund together went into the home and collected some essentials…
She hired Freund to represent her in the case, but after a court issued an injunction that prohibited her from taking any property from the marital home, she and Freund went there anyway and took televisions, a Blu-ray player, and silverware. Records indicate that Freund also admitted that she was living with him at the time.
Both of them were subsequently convicted of indirect criminal contempt, according to disciplinary records.
On top of this, records say, Freund represented her at a court appearance in a criminal case after his law license lapsed due to a failure to fulfill his continuing legal education requirements.
As a result of the above, Freund faced professional disciplinary action, and his license to practice law (which was eventually reinstated after the aforementioned lapse) was suspended for 90 days, with a two-year probationary period that is still ongoing.
Andrew Freund, Sr. was well known in Crystal Lake and McHenry County, Illinois. He worked for a respected law firm, who tried to help him overcome his addiction to opiates.
There were lots of DCFS visits to the dilapidated house in Crystal Lake, police visits as well. They noted things like an overwhelming odor from dog feces, broken windows, squalor, no electricity. Did you know that lack of electricity in December is not enough of a reason to take action on behalf of children?
One neighborhood lady said that little AJ came trick or treating with his mom. He had bandages on his face and arm. The neighbor thought he was dressed as a mummy. No, mom corrected, he pulled a pot of boiling water onto himself. He has been treated at the hospital. The neighbor lady didn’t call the police.
Another time, little AJ was outside in the car with the door open and saying he was cold. His parents were busy having a loud argument inside the house. A neighbor man said the mom asked him please do not call the police. He didn’t.
When Andrew Freund, Sr. called police to rather nonchalantly report that they couldn’t find the five-year-old, the police started looking. Their dogs picked up no scent outside the house. The boy had not walked out. There was a vigil, with pleas from the father for a safe return of his son. DCFS took AJ’s younger brother into protective custody. The FBI was called in. Cell phone records were scrutinized. Dozens of fire departments and other volunteers came and searched. The focus by Crystal Lake police, however, never strayed from the parents.
Little AJ was found wrapped in plastic in a shallow grave on a nearby farm. His parents had forced him to sit in a cold shower while they beat him to death. Allegedly. Court documents indicate they waited three days before reporting him missing.
JoAnn Cunningham is 35; Andrew Freund is 60. Cunningham is seven months pregnant. They have been charged with multiple counts each of first-degree murder, aggravated battery, aggravated domestic battery and failure to report a missing or child death. Illinois has no death penalty.
[Updated to add cause of death. An autopsy conducted today found that little AJ died of head trauma from multiple blunt force injuries.]
There is a song written by JJ Heller called What Love Really Means. The opening stanza is,
He cries in the corner where nobody sees
He’s the kid with the story no one would believe
He prays every night, “Dear God won’t you please…
Could you send someone here who will love me?”
Life imitates art imitates life.