A.J. Freund's Mother Saw Oldest Son Taken Away After History of Abuse, Records Show

Well before Andrew “A.J.” Freund Jr. was even born, the slain boy’s mother JoAnn Cunningham allegedly committed abuses so severe against a child the courts saw fit to remove him from her custody entirely, records obtained by InsideEdition.com show.
Handout

Well before Andrew “A.J.” Freund Jr. was even born, the slain boy’s mother allegedly committed abuses so severe against a child the courts saw fit to remove him from her custody entirely, records obtained by InsideEdition.com show. 

JoAnn Cunningham was living with Andrew Freund when a judge ruled in 2013 it was in the best interest of her oldest son to remain with his grandmother, according to court records filed in McHenry County, Illinois.

“Sole, permanent care, custody and control of the minor child” was awarded to Cunningham’s mother after a legal battle that apparently had been fought in the courts for at least 10 months. 

According to Cunningham’s mother, her grandson said he dealt with deplorable, violent and neglectful conditions while living with his mother and Freund.

In her petition for custody, Cunningham’s mother described the disturbing details of her grandson’s life at 94 Dole Ave., the Crystal Lake home A.J. six years later would come to know as his last. 

Cunningham and Freund were accused of denying Cunningham’s son medical care, clean clothing, food and a healthy living environment, the grandmother said. Instead, he was forced to live in “constant fear, hunger and filth.”

Cunningham’s mother said in the petition for custody that her grandson first came to live with her in August 2012 and remained with her permanently since Oct. 31, 2012. The boy’s father was apparently no longer alive, the petition said. 

“[Cunningham] is not a fit and proper person to have the care custody, control and education of a minor child,” her mother wrote before laying out 36 instances she said proved her point. 

The child, whose name InsideEdition.com is not releasing, often went to and returned from school hungry, having been given no lunch, nor money to buy food, his grandmother said. 

His diet at home was apparently no better. 

“The child was not provided food on a regular basis, eating a meal on approximately four of the seven days of the week and a remainder of the time there was no food in the house,” the petition said, noting he at times resorted to the only fare available in the home: “marshmallows and water.”

“The child was left to fend for himself and approximately three to four times a week cook for [Cunningham] and Andrew Freund,” the petition continued. 

Food shortages were not the only problem the boy had at home, his grandmother said.

She claimed there were instances in which she would plan to drop her grandson off at the house, only to find it cold and dirty.

“[The grandmother] would stay and wash the dishes and pick up the dog feces, sometimes taking 2-3 hours just doing those two things,” the petition said.

The only other times the home was cleaned was when the boy was made to do so, his grandmother wrote. “If he does not complete it fast enough [Cunningham] yells at him and … he is required to sit in his room,” she said.

Cunningham’s mother recalled bringing back home with her piles of dirty clothes scattered around her daughter’s house. She “would take as many as [10] loads of laundry, all of which smelled of cat urine,” at a time, knowing that if she didn’t, her grandson would have nothing clean to wear, the petition said.

Oftentimes, Cunningham’s son returned from school to a house without a phone or cable, heat, hot water or water at all, her mother said. He was also left to his own devices, including overnight when he had a 102 degree fever, was vomiting and had diarrhea, she wrote. 

The boy often missed school, going an entire month without attending between 2011 and 2012, his grandmother wrote. 

When the boy wasn’t being ignored, he was subjected to upsetting abuses and bore witness to disturbing bouts of violence, the petition claimed.

He watched on a weekly basis as Cunningham and Freund allegedly got into arguments that turned physical, including once when his mother drew and threatened her partner with a knife, the petition said. He in turn pushed her down the stairs, the grandmother said. 

In another incident, Freund allegedly put on an Army uniform and walked around the home with a gun. 

During an incident in the summer of 2012, Cunningham allegedly forced her son to remain with her in her bedroom, saying it was a “safe room” and that if they left, their neighbors would kill them. “The child was terrified and crying,” the petition said.

And when it became clear the boy wanted to remain with his grandmother, Cunningham allegedly told him she would kill herself unless he came back to the Dole Avenue home, the petition said.

Cunningham’s mother claimed her grandson said he watched as Cunningham and Freund consumed and were under the influence of prescription medication Cunningham had purchased.  

Cunningham allegedly brought her son with her as she drove to buy the unspecific prescription medicine while already under the influence of the drugs, becoming unable to drive in straight line, the petition said.

Cunningham’s mother identified Freund as having first been her daughter’s divorce attorney, for whom Cunningham allegedly “obtained pills … to compensate him for legal representation,” the petition said.

Freund was admitted as a lawyer by the Illinois Supreme Court in November 1984. 

He was suspended from practicing law from Oct. 13, 2015, to Jan. 11, 2016, after he was convicted of indirect criminal contempt when he was found by a judge to have violated court orders while representing a client in a dissolution of marriage, according to the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois.  

Freund also appeared in court on behalf of a client after he had been removed from the Master Roll of Attorneys due to his failure to register or complete his mandatory continuing legal education requirements, online records show.

At the end of her petition, Cunningham’s mother said her grandson “stated he refuses to return to live with [Cunningham] and that if required to do so, he will run away.” 

“Upon information and belief all of the above have seriously affected the minor child because he has lived with constant fear, hunger and filth all of which has caused him emotional distress,” it continued.

In his ruling, the judge presiding said Cunningham’s mother had “proven the material allegations of the complaint.”

It was not immediately clear if police or the Illinois Department of Child & Family Services had contact with Cunningham and Freund while her son lived with them. 

Prosecutors have said the pair forced their 5-year-old son, A.J. “to remain in a cold shower for an extended period of time” and beat him to death before burying him April 15. 

Freund did not reportedly call 911 to report his son missing for three more days.

Cunningham, 36, and Freund, 60, have both been charged with five counts each of first-degree murder, aggravated battery, aggravated domestic battery and failure to report a missing child or child death. Freund was also charged with concealment of a homicidal death.

They appeared in court Thursday for bond hearings and were ordered held in lieu of $5 million bail. They would need to post 10 percent in order to be released from jail.

A.J.’s killing comes after numerous visits to the home by DCFS, which initially took custody of him after he was born with opiates in his system. He was later returned to his mother, and the agency subsequently investigated at least two allegations of neglect against his parents, but no charges were brought. 

Police in 2018 reported deplorable conditions in the home that resembled that of which A.J.’s older brother was reportedly made to deal with years ago, and also noted a bruise on the leg of one of Cunningham and Freund’s two young sons.

Police said Cunningham told them she hadn’t noticed the bruise before but said it must have been from the family’s dog jumping on him. The child said that was what happened, and an investigator with DCFS said they were unable to ultimately determine the cause of the injury. 

During that incident, Cunningham was arrested for allegedly driving with a suspended license, police said. She was released and allowed to return home to her children.

Cunningham, who is seven months pregnant, and Freund are expected to appear in court again for a preliminary hearing Monday.

RELATED STORIES

Teen Reported Her YouTube Star Mom's Alleged Abuse of 7 Adopted Siblings to Cops

Teen Claiming Abuse Is Allowed to Stay in Thailand During Desperate Bid for Asylum

Couple Sentenced for Roles in Son's Fatal Beating by Church Group