July 13, 2024
State | Sauk Valley News


State | Sauk Valley News

Breaking: Parents charged with first-degree murder after body of missing Crystal Lake boy found near Woodstock

The parents of 5-year-old Andrew "A.J." Freund face first-degree murder and other charges in connection with the killing of their son, whose body was found wrapped in plastic in a shallow grave outside of Woodstock on Wednesday, police said.

The parents of 5-year-old Andrew “A.J.” Freund face first-degree murder and other charges in connection with the killing of their son, whose body was found wrapped in plastic in a shallow grave outside of Woodstock on Wednesday, police said.

The cause of death has yet to be determined, Crystal Lake Police Chief Jim Black said.

Cunningham is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery, aggravated domestic battery, and failure to report a missing child.

Freund is charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery, aggravated domestic battery, concealment of a homicide, and failure to report a missing child.

Crystal Lake police and FBI members interviewed the parents overnight after information was obtained through a forensic analysis of cell phone data, Black said.

Information provided by the parents led investigators to the site where A.J.'s body was found, police said. The McHenry County Coroner was called to the scene to assist with the recovery and identification of the body, police said.

Crystal Lake officers, along with McHenry County Sheriff's deputies and FBI agents, found the body near a field in Woodstock off Dean Street just north of Gayle Drive on Wednesday, the source said.

Cunningham, the mother of A.J., the 5-year-old Crystal Lake child who was reported missing Thursday morning, is at the Crystal Lake Police Department. Police have closed a portion of Dean Street north of Route 176 and south of Lucas Road.

If charges in the missing child case are set, they will be announced at a 1 p.m. press conference at the Crystal Lake City Hall, officials said. In the past several days, police have also searched Veteran Acres Park, Sterne's Woods and Lippold Park in Crystal Lake.

You can watch the 1 p.m. press conference live here.

Carolina Bermudez, who lives near the property in Woodstock, said a police officer in an unmarked car knocked on her door at around 6 a.m. Wednesday, and her husband answered. The officer was wondering who owned the nearby property, which Bermudez said includes a barn where farm equipment is stored.

Bermudez, who has lived at the home for three years, said she has children of her own –ages 11, 6 and 1 1/2 – and when they went out early this morning to go to school, the nearby gravel road was blocked off.

"Never would I think that they couldn't be back there by themselves," Bermudez said.

Bermudez noted that she did not see any suspicious activity in the area over the past week.

A small group of residents gathered throughout the morning Wednesday at the site of the police investigation on Dean Street. Nikita Chieco, a Woodstock mother, held a stuffed dog toy to her chest as she watched investigators capture drone footage of a short stretch of road along the wooded area.

"Since he had a pet dog, I wanted to leave this for him," Chieco said.

She was joined by fellow Woodstock resident, Rose Taylor, who said Andrew's disappearance has affected the whole community.

"I just hope that they find him so that he can rest in peace," Taylor said.

Pilots are temporarily banned from operating aircrafts in the area near Woodstock, according to a notice from the Federal Aviation Administration. The McHenry County Sheriff’s Office was the point of contact for the notice, according to the FAA notice. Police were usuing a drone to search the area.

Speaking at the noon news conference will be Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black and FBI Special Agent Colin McGuire.

Police were at the Freund home on Dole Avenue in Crystal Lake. While there, they removed evidence, including a shovel, toddler's mattress, a large tub, multiple lawn bags filled with items and the family's dog, a boxer named Lucy.

In a redacted 911 call released by Crystal Lake police Tuesday, the boy’s father Andrew Freund Sr. told a police dispatcher that he discovered his son missing on Thursday after coming home from a doctor’s appointment between 8:15 to 8:30 a.m.

Authorities do not believe the missing Crystal Lake boy was abducted. Police K-9 teams only picked up Andrew's scent within the house, indicating that the boy had not walked away on foot, Crystal Lake police have said.

DCFS has had contact with Andrew’s family since he was born in 2013 with opiates in his system and amid neglect allegations against his mother, according to DCFS Deputy Communications Director Jassen Strokosch. The agency has had contact with the family on and off until late last year.