A.J. Freund’s life ended after the little boy didn’t tell the truth about a pair of soiled underwear, authorities claimed the murdered 5-year-old’s father said.
The child was forced to take a cold shower for supposedly lying about soling his clothes, in what had become his parents’ agreed upon form of punishment, a search warrant filed by the McHenry County Sheriff’s office in Illinois said.
Police said Andrew Freund Sr. told them he wanted A.J.’s mother, JoAnn Cunningham, to “stop the hard physical beatings and do some less violent form of punishment,” the court documents said. And so, the pair allegedly decided cold showers would be used instead.
After about 20 minutes in the freezing water, Freund Sr. removed his young son from the shower and put him to bed “cold, wet and naked,” police said Freund Sr. told them.
A.J. was found dead later that night on April 15, but it would take his parents three days to call police about their son, who they claimed on April 18 was missing, police said.
Freund Sr. said that before making the call to police, he hid his son’s body in a tote bag in the basement and then in garbage bags before he drove to a vacant, undeveloped lot in Woodstock, cops said. There, he dug a shallow grave, left A.J.’s body in the small hole, and then covered it with straw, the search warrant said.
Freund Sr.'s alleged admissions came after having insisted A.J. disappeared after brushing his teeth, washing his hands, saying his prayers and going to bed April 17.
He claimed that when he came home the following morning from an early doctor’s appointment, he saw A.J. was not in his room or anywhere else in the home, police said.
At the doctor’s office, a woman who checked him out told police he accepted the offer for a receipt, saying, “The lawyer in me thinks I need a paper trail.”
Police said they confronted Freund Sr. with cell phone records that contradicted his earlier stories of what happened to A.J. and footage that painted a disturbing image of life at home for the little boy.
A Google search history on his phone revealed someone searched for instructions on how to perform CPR on a child, court documents alleged.
Freund Sr. allegedly said Cunningham, who is seven months pregnant, may have been researching the topic in anticipation of the baby, but police said he later told them she entered the search after finding A.J. dead.
The data provided by Apple after police were granted a warrant also included a photo of a shopping list that included duct tape, plastic gloves, air freshener and bleach.
Police who searched the family’s home on Dole Avenue reported the house to be in “a hoarder like condition.” Officers said they found a garbage bag filled with wet clothes that smelled heavily of bleach and four bottles of bleach throughout the home. They said they also found a pair of men’s sneakers that were “dripping wet with mud.”
Deleted files provided by Apple to police on April 23 included a two-minute-long video of a woman who sounded like Cunningham berating A.J. for wetting the bed. In the video, which was taken March 4, A.J. appears to be wearing nothing, except for small bandages on his wrists and hips.
The little boy could be seen laying on a bare mattress in a crib in what police said was his room and was holding an ice pack to his face. When he removed it, a yellow-green bruise could be seen around his neck and upper chest, the warrant said.
Police said Freund Sr. told them Cunningham believed A.J. to have “oppositional defiance disorder” and said A.J. thought he was the leader of the house.
Speaking to police while his son was still considered missing, Freund Sr. allegedly said A.J. lied, disobeyed orders and “thinks things should go his way,” the warrant said.
Freund Sr. allegedly said A.J. was sometimes made to go into disciplinary timeouts that left him locked in his room for hours at a time, including once where he was kept in his bedroom for five hours for not washing the dishes correctly.
The punishment was so severe because when A.J. was asked why he stacked the dishes the way he did, the child said he didn’t stack the dishes at all, police said Freund Sr. told them.
Freund Sr. said “this overt lying was so egregious and needed to be punished and addressed,” police wrote
The morning after A.J. is believed to have been killed, Cunningham allegedly told A.J.'s little brother he “fell down the stairs and had a lot of owies [sic],” the documents said.
The little boy also said his parents told him not to talk about his big brother, police said.
After allegedly admitting to burying his son in a shallow grave, police said Freund Sr. led them to his body.
Freund Sr. and Cunningham face numerous charges in connection to A.J.’s death, including first-degree murder. They are being held at the McHenry County Jail with $5 million bond each and are barred from contacting each other.