Mother pleads guilty to murder in beating death of 5-year-old AJ Freund

AJ Freund (left) and JoAnn Cunningham (right)

MCHENRY COUNTY, Ill. – A mother accused of beating her 5-year-old son to death pleaded guilty to murder Thursday.

JoAnn Cunningham, 36, appeared in court to enter a guilty plea to a first-degree murder charge in the death of 5-year-old AJ Freund.

She faces 20 to 60 years in prison, according to WGN. Other charges against her have been dropped in exchange for her guilty plea. She’s set for a status hearing on Jan. 30.

Prosecutors said Cunningham and the boy’s father, Andrew Freund Sr., beat the 5-year-old boy and then buried him in a shallow grave. Freund Sr. is also charged with first-degree murder. Both have been held in jail on $5 million bail.

They were charged in April. Investigators said the little boy was killed a few days before his father reported him missing, setting off a large search effort. They found his body after a forensic analysis of his parents’ cell phone data and subsequent interviews with both of them.

Investigators said the boy’s parents forced him to remain in a cold shower for an extended period of time. An autopsy found the 5-year-old suffered severe trauma to his head; he also had visible marks and bruises on his body.

JoAnn Cunningham (left) and Andrew Freund Sr. (Right)

Notice: you are using an outdated browser. Microsoft does not recommend using IE as your default browser. Some features on this website, like video and images, might not work properly. For the best experience, please upgrade your browser.