Cunningham sentencing in AJ Freund murder begins Thursday morning

JoAnn Cunningham enters courtroom 302 Feb. 27 for a status hearing with McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt at the McHenry County Courthouse in Woodstock. In December, she plead guilty to killing her 5-year-old son, AJ Freund.

Facing up to six decades in prison, JoAnn Cunningham – the mother who pleaded guilty to killing her 5-year-old son last year inside their Crystal Lake home – is expected to learn her fate this week.

The sentencing hearing, presided over by McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt, is set to begin at 9 a.m. Thursday and last throughout the day. More than a dozen witnesses are expected to testify on the state’s behalf.

Wilbrandt will wrap up the hearing at 5 p.m. then resume at 1:30 p.m. Friday when he is expected to hand down his ruling. She faces between 20 to 60 years in prison. McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally has said he will push for the maximum sentence.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions there will be a limited number of people allowed into the courtroom.

About eight family members of Andrew “AJ” Freund, who prosecutors say was beaten in a cold shower, then put to bed wet, cold and naked before dying, are expected to attend.

Additional spectators, including journalists, will observe the courtroom proceedings on a video monitor from the jury room.

On April 18, 2019, the child’s father Andrew Freund, 61, made a 911 call reporting his son missing. The call drew hundreds of searchers, police from departments across the state, the FBI and search dogs.

The search lasted nearly a week until Freund led authorities to a shallow grave in a field in Woodstock about seven miles from their home.

The child’s lifeless body had been wrapped in plastic. Authorities said he had been kept in a bucket in the basement of the home for two days before he was moved and buried.

Cunningham, 37, and Freund were each charged with murder and other charges related to their son’s death. Each have since been held in the McHenry County jail on $5 million bond. After Cunningham admitted in December to killing her son her bond was revoked.

Freund awaits trial.

AJ Freund had been the subject of many police and child welfare calls during his short life. The home at 94 Dole Ave. where he was killed was torn down in March.

• Check back throughout the hearing Thursday and Friday for live updates.

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