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


AJ Freund (left) and JoAnn Cunningham (right)

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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)

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