News - McHenry County

Mother of missing Crystal Lake 5-year-old trying to regain custody of younger son, attorney says

Andrew ‘AJ’ Freund has been missing since Thursday

A makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, candles, and well-wishes sits near the sidewalk in front of the Freund residence on Dole Ave on Monday in Crystal Lake.

The mother of a missing 5-year-old from Crystal Lake is trying to regain custody of her younger son, Parker, according to one of her attorneys.

After Andrew “AJ” Freund was reported missing on Thursday, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services took JoAnn Cunningham’s younger son into custody. The mother is seven months pregnant, her attorney said.

There will be a hearing Tuesday at the McHenry County Courthouse in Woodstock regarding the department's decision to take Parker into protective custody, one of Cunningham's lawyers, Jeannie Ridings of KRV Legal, said in an email. A news conference will follow the 3 p.m. hearing.

One of Cunningham's attorneys, George Kililis, has said it's unclear why the young boy was removed from his mother's custody. Cunningham plans to fight the decision "vehemently" in court Tuesday, Kililis said.

The hours leading up to A.J.'s disappearance were relatively routine, according to the attorney.

Andrew's father, Andrew Freund Sr., and Cunningham carried out their nightly regime as usual, Kililis said.

Although Freund and Cunningham lived together at the Dole Avenue home and co-parented, they weren't in a romantic relationship and slept in separate rooms of the house, Kililis said.

It was the family's routine to eat dinner together and pray each night when Freund returned from work. Afterward, the boys would take a bath and head to bed, where both parents tucked them in for the night, Kililis said.

Wednesday was no exception. According to Cunningham's attorney, Andrew was in bed about 9 p.m.

Her 4-year-old son, Parker, slept with her that night. When they awoke about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, 5-year-old Andrew was gone, Kililis said.

Andrew was taken into DCFS custody in November 2013, a timeline provided by DCFS shows. The agency has had contact with the family on and off until late last year, DCFS said.

Police said Monday that Cunningham continues to not cooperate with law enforcement, while Andrew Freund Sr. spoke with detectives Saturday. Kililis denied the accusation Monday, noting that Cunningham has met with police for more than 10 hours since her son’s disappearance, and complied with warrants to search her house and phone, as well as collect samples of her DNA.

If it's a confession police want, however, they won't be getting one from Cunningham, Kililis said.

“At some point the police, for whatever reason, started treating her as a suspect,” Kililis said. “Yes, we’re not cooperating with that, but that’s not the same thing.”

Katie Smith

Katie Smith

Katie reported on the crime and courts beat for the Northwest Herald from 2017 through 2021. She began her career with Shaw Media in 2015 at the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb, where she reported on the courts, city council, the local school board, and business.