Mom of 5-Year-Old Boy Found in Shallow Grave in Illinois Pleads Guilty to His Murder After Months of Not Cooperating with Authorities

by San Eli News

The body of a 5-year-old boy was discovered by police in a shallow grave in Woodstock, Illinois and now his mother has pleaded guilty to his murder.

According to the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office, mother Joanne Cunningham has been charged with first-degree murder and is facing 20 to 60 years in prison without parole for the death of her son, Andrew “A.J.” Freund

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JoAnn Cunningham pleaded guilty to murdering her 5-year-old son, A.J. Freund.

The incarcerated mother initially pleaded not guilty and requested a trial by jury. She has now entered into a “blind plea,” in which both parties agreed to the sentencing terms.

A.J. was wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave on April 24. Autopsy results show he died of multiple blunt force injuries to the head.

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A.J. Freund was found murdered on April 24. For months, his mom, JoAnn Cunningham, claimed she was innocent and refused to truthfully cooperate with authorities.

His father, Andrew Freund, Sr. initially called 911 to report him missing from the family home. 

The parents told police that they had last seen A.J. when they put him to bed the night before on April 17. 

JoAnn Cunningham and AJ Freund: Mom of 5-Year-Old Boy Found in Shallow Grave in Illinois Pleads Guilty to His Murder After Months of Not Cooperating with Authorities
A.J. Freund / ABC7 Chicago

Both parents were arrested and held on a $5 million bond. The father has pleaded not guilty. 

Investigators found a cell phone video of A.J. who had been badly beaten. After offering an explanation for the events that preceded his son’s death, Andrew eventually led police to the grave, according to a court document obtained by PEOPLE. 

JoAnn Cunningham and AJ Freund: Mom of 5-Year-Old Boy Found in Shallow Grave in Illinois Pleads Guilty to His Murder After Months of Not Cooperating with Authorities
JoAnn Cunningham and Son A.J. Freund / Source: Crystal Lake Police Department

Records show that the state’s Department of Child and Family Services had visited the family’s home at least 17 times since A.J.’s birth. A status hearing in Joanne’s case is scheduled for January 30.