News - McHenry County

AJ Freund’s mother gives jailhouse interview with CBS

The home at 94 Dole Avenue belonging to accused child killers Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham.

Defense attorneys and prosecutors have received medical records and photographs taken by the Department of Children and Family Services as part of the investigation into the death of 5-year-old Crystal Lake boy AJ Freund.

AJ’s father, 60-year-old Andrew Freund Sr., made a brief court appearance Thursday morning at the McHenry County Courthouse, where prosecutors checked on the status of their subpoena requests relating to AJ’s death.

Not long before Freund’s case was called, attorneys were surprised to learn that the boy’s mother and fellow defendant, JoAnn, participated in several recorded interviews with CBS reporter Brad Edwards.

“I would rather kill myself than hurt my family,” Cunningham told Edwards during one conversation.

Freund and Cunningham, 36, each face potential life sentences on first-degree murder charges tied to the boy’s death. Police believe the parents forced AJ into a cold shower and beat him to death days before reporting him missing April 18.

After nearly a week of searching for the young boy, Freund led investigators to the rural Woodstock area where he had buried AJ’s body in a shallow grave, according to a police affidavit.

Cunningham had been vocal about AJ’s disappearance before her arrest, making TV appearances during which she begged her son to come home. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys have remained quiet about the case since Cunningham and Freund’s April 24 arrests, however, citing office policies barring them from speaking about ongoing investigations.

Neither of Cunningham’s attorneys, Assistant Public Defenders Richard Behof and Angelo Mourelatos, were present during her interviews with Edwards, Behof said, adding that defendants’ communication with reporters is generally discouraged while a case is ongoing.

Freund and Cunningham are forbidden to have contact with one another in the jail. The pair have been in the same room only a handful of times since their arrests. They have seen each other only during occasional appearances on pending cases tied to their Dole Avenue property and the custody of Cunningham’s surviving children.

Freund was unaware of Cunningham’s communication with CBS, his attorney Special Public Defender Henry Sugden said Thursday.

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.