December 10, 2023
Columns | Northwest Herald

Styf: Andrew Freund court process will lead to public disappointment

Andrew Freund appears for a status hearing July 30 with McHenry County 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 will appear back in court at 9 a.m. Aug. 28.

Andrew Freund is scheduled to appear in court again next Friday for a status hearing.

Eventually, one of these hearings is likely to announce a plea agreement.

It might be attached to a sentence or it might be a blind plea, such as the one JoAnn Cunningham took before getting sentenced to 35 years for the murder of their son, 5-year-old AJ Freund.

But what’s clear is that Freund’s sentence, whether he enters a plea or is convicted, will be less severe than Cunningham’s.

As Freund’s appointed attorney, Special Public Defender Henry Sugden, said after last month’s status hearing: “She basically admitted that she did it. If you read the psychological report, she didn’t even know where he was when it happened.”

That might be true, but we can be confident Freund was involved. He was the one who made the chilling 911 call to police knowing AJ already was dead.

“We have a missing child,” Freund said on the call. “Woke up this morning and he wasn’t ... he wasn’t ... ”

It all seems so ... unjust.

And, for the first time, the public has been able to view the court process through an unprecedented look at the McHenry County legal system.

Although in-person courtroom access has been extremely limited, to the credit of McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt, the entire sentencing hearing for Cunningham was available for the public to watch and follow live for the first time.

You saw what Wilbrandt saw, outside of a few graphic images, details and the testimony of one witness.

The public found out quickly this isn’t a TV show. It was, at points, meticulous and gruesome detail of what happened in the hours and minutes leading up to AJ’s death, the actual heinous acts and specifics.

And at other times it was what felt like hollow excuses and half-apologies for those actions.

Then, the conclusion, with Wilbrandt explaining why he came to his decision on Cunningham’s sentence.

It was enlightening and, for many, disappointing at the same time. If you’re hoping for a longer sentence for Freund, prepare yourself to be disappointed again.

• Northwest Herald Editor and Shaw Media Illinois Senior News Editor Jon Styf can be reached at or 815-526-4630.

Jon Styf

Jon Styf

Jon is the Senior News Editor of the Shaw Media Local News Network and the Editor of the Northwest Herald. He was previously the editor of The Herald-News in Joliet and Morris and a sports editor for Shaw Media at the Northwest Herald and Daily Chronicle.