News - McHenry County

Attorneys discuss plea deal for Crystal Lake father accused of killing AJ Freund

Andrew Freund appears Thursday in court for a status hearing with Judge Robert Wilbrandt at the McHenry County Courthouse in Woodstock. Freund is facing trial for the murder of his 5-year-old son AJ Freund and is due back in court at 9 a.m. Aug. 28.

A plea deal between the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office and the father of slain 5-year-old Crystal Lake boy AJ Freund could be on its way, the man’s attorney said in court Thursday.

An unshackled Andrew T. Freund Sr. was escorted into a McHenry County courtroom Thursday, clad in the county jail’s orange jumpsuit and a surgical face mask. Thursday marked Freund’s first court appearance since AJ’s mother, JoAnn D. Cunningham, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for her part in the boy’s death.

Freund's appointed attorney, Special Public Defender Henry Sugden, told McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt that he was having "pretty serious conversations" with prosecutors about reaching a potential negotiated plea. The attorney declined to say what 61-year-old Freund might be willing to plead guilty to or how much time he could receive.

Sugden said he hopes to have the terms of any possible plea bargain worked out by Freund's Aug. 28 court date.

Freund pleaded not guilty on May 10, 2019, to first-degree murder and other charges stemming from AJ's death.

Chief of the McHenry County State's Attorney's Office's Criminal Division Randi Freese declined to comment on the case while it is ongoing.

Prosecutors have previously said they were disappointed with the sentence that McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt issued Cunningham on July 17. The sentence also came as a disappointment to AJ's surviving family, who said they hoped the 37-year-old mother would receive the maximum 60-year sentence.

Sugden, who sat through Cunningham's two-day sentencing hearing, said details revealed through testimony and the woman's psychological evaluation helped bolster Freund's defense.

"She basically admitted that she did it," Sugden said after court Thursday. "If you read the psychological report, she didn't even know where he was when it happened."

Freund and Cunningham were arrested on April 24, 2019, nearly one week after the parents falsely reported AJ missing from their Crystal Lake home.

The report sparked a massive police and community search for the boy, which came to an end when Freund led investigators to AJ's burial site in rural Woodstock, court records show.

Both parents were charged with first-degree murder and a litany of felonies tied to AJ's death. Investigators have said the parents forced AJ into a cold shower before putting him to bed naked, wet and cold the night of his April 15, 2019, death.

Freund remained at the McHenry County Jail Thursday on a $5 million bond.

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.