Crystal Lake mom who killed AJ Freund seeks evaluations as her attorney asks to withdraw

JoAnn Cunningham serving 35 years in prison for the beating death of her son in 2019

JoAnn Cunningham, mother of missing 5 year old Andrew "AJ" Freund, holds back tears April 19, 2019, as she talks with the media outside Cunningham's home on Dole Avenue in Crystal Lake.

The Crystal Lake mother serving 35 years in prison for killing her 5-year-old son in April 2019 will receive evaluations completed by doctors who examined her in the months following the death.

McHenry County Judge James Cowlin granted JoAnn Cunningham’s request for the documents on Thursday.

Cunningham, 40, convicted of first-degree murder and currently incarcerated at the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, said in her letter that she needs the documents to respond “to my appellate attorney’s Finley motion.”

A Finley motion is filed by a court-appointed appellate defense attorney in a criminal case when they want to withdraw from the case because there is belief that the case is frivolous or “there are no meritorious issues to raise on appeal,” said Richard Kling, a defense attorney and clinical professor of law at Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent College of Law. Kling is not affiliated with Cunningham or her case.

JoAnn Cunningham

Cunningham asked for a psychological evaluation written Jan. 24, 2020, as well as an addendum to that report dated July 9, 2020, written by Robert Meyer, a doctor with Mathers Clinic with offices in Crystal Lake and Woodstock. Meyer often evaluates defendants facing charges in McHenry County.

She also sought an evaluation written by a psychiatrist and a substance abuse evaluation written by another doctor on Dec. 19, 2019, as well as a letter written by a chaplain and a pre-sentence investigation report, according to her letter.

AJ Freund’s body was found buried in a shallow grave in Woodstock days after his father Andrew Freund Sr. falsely reported him missing.

Cunningham pleaded guilty in December 2019 as part of a plea deal to first-degree murder and was subsequently sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Freund, 64, pleaded guilty in September 2020 to aggravated battery to a child younger than 13 causing permanent disability, involuntary manslaughter of a child who is a family member and concealment of a homicidal death. He is serving 30 years in prison and currently is housed at Hill Correctional Center in Galesburg.

AJ was the subject of many calls to the home at 94 Dole Ave. by police and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services throughout his short life.

She also is seeking an evaluation written by a psychiatrist and a substance abuse evaluation written by another doctor on Dec. 19, 2019, as well as a letter written by a chaplain and a pre-sentence investigation report.

—  JoAnn Cunningham requests from McHenry County courthouse in response to her attorney's Finley motion

McHenry County prosecutors say on April 15, 2019, Cunningham beat and berated the child and made him stand in a cold shower before putting him to bed cold, naked and wet. In the morning, Freund stored his body in a tote in the basement of the home. About three days later, Freund wrapped the child’s body in plastic and moved it to the field in Woodstock where he buried it.

Prayer cards for AJ Freund, 5, sit on a table next to the visitor guestbook May 3, 2019, at Davenport Funeral Home in Crystal Lake.

Last year, Cunningham filed a handwritten post-conviction petition, saying, among other things, that she was not represented properly by her assistant public defender, her constitutional rights were violated and she was suffering postpartum psychosis and heard and saw demons before killing her son.

“Her participation in the offense was a direct result of her suffering from postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis,” Cunningham wrote in her petition seeking relief.

Cunningham was pregnant at the time she killed her son and wrote in the petition that during this time she asked a priest, chaplain and AJ’s father for an exorcism. She also claimed that she believed she and her son were possessed at the time she killed him.

The now retired McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt denied the petition.

In denying the petition, Wilbrandt wrote the pleadings in Cunningham’s petition “do not provide the ‘gist’ of a meritorious claim of substantial deprivation of a federal or state constitutional right and that they are patently without merit.”

In a rare move, the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office has also charged the DCFS employees in charge of AJ’s case criminally.

Carlos Acosta, 57, of Woodstock and his supervisor Andrew Polovin, 50, of Island Lake are each charged with two counts of endangering the life of a child and health of a minor and reckless conduct, according to the indictment.