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ILLINOIS – A Crystal Lake mother who subjected her son to several years of physical and mental abuse until he was beaten to death last year was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
JoAnn Cunningham, 37, had previously pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the death of her son Andrew “AJ” Freund, 5, in April 2019.
Eight months earlier, police discovered the body of the beaten boy, wrapped in plastic and hidden in a shallow grave near the family’s home.
Cunningham, who had his face covered during the sentencing reading due to COVID-19 protocols, showed no reaction upon hearing the ruling from McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt.
Cunningham was facing a maximum sentence of up to 60 years in prison and on her defense, the woman made a plea in front of the judge where she asked for mercy and claimed to be a loving mother who misses her son.
Wilbrandt acknowledged that Cunningham had a “difficult life” due to his drug addiction despite various efforts to rehabilitate himself.
“She went back to living in what can only be described as drug crap: lying, cheating, and manipulating her life while terrorizing her young son,” the judge said.
“While her addictions do not justify her egregious behavior toward her own son, perhaps they do help explain why she engaged in inhumane, repulsive behaviors that ended her young son’s life.”
Cunningham and Andrew Freund, the boy’s father, were arrested in April 2019, days after they reported to authorities that their son AJ had disappeared from his home.
The girl’s body was found in a cardboard box. These are the tests that managed to release him.
During the investigation, Freund Sr. took authorities to the boy’s corpse, which was in a bag and buried, after video evidence linked both parents to AJ’s disappearance.
An autopsy later revealed that the boy had been beaten multiple times and died from blunt trauma.
De Freund, father of the minor, is known to have pleaded not guilty to the events and is still awaiting trial.
Court documents revealed that an image of the injured Andrew Freund Jr. would have been the trigger for the boy’s father to lead investigators to the boy’s body, after he said the boy had disappeared from his bed in Crystal Lake.
A Dutch prosecution accused a man of holding a family in captivity for almost ten years in a room.
The files in the court’s possession even show a video, dated March 4, showing AJ on a mattress, naked and full of scratches and bandages, according to the testimony of detective Edwin Maldonado.
Freund told investigators what his role had been in the boy’s death after watching that video, which had been erased from the mother’s phone.
According to Maldonado, a female voice attributable to the mother was recorded on the recording reprimanding little AJ for urinating on his bed.
It was the same man who would have taken the authorities to the body, which was in a bag and buried.
The mother reportedly took the boy to another channel, where he was found dead, according to authorities.
Furthermore, it had already been known that he had allegedly been subjected to being kept under an icy stream of water, in an alleged attempt to reduce physical spanking.
Freund also said that he put the boy to his bed naked and cold and that later the mother found him unconscious.
The father added that he put him in a plastic container and stored his body in the basement of the house before burying him, despite the autopsy showing that he had suffered multiple injuries to the head that caused his death.
The investigation also showed that they had looked up the term “cardiopulmonary resuscitation for children” on Freund’s phone and had taken a screen shot of a digital shopping cart that included duct tape, gloves, air freshener, and bleach.