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Here's What Authorities Say Happened to AJ Freund, 5

Prosecutors say parents abused and neglected him for years
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 25, 2019 12:44 PM CDT
This undated photo provided by the Crystal Lake, Illinois Police Department shows Andrew "AJ" Freund.   (Crystal Lake Police Department via AP)

(Newser) – An autopsy for Andrew "AJ" Freund, the Illinois 5-year-old reported missing April 18 and found dead early Wednesday after his father allegedly provided police with information that led them to his body, is scheduled for Thursday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. But in charging documents, prosecutors have already laid out what they say happened: The boy's parents forced him "to remain in a cold shower for an extended period of time and/or struck (him) on or about his body," causing his death, which they say happened April 15. In addition to murder, mother JoAnn Cunningham, 36, and Andrew Freund Sr., 60, face charges of battery and failure to report a missing child or child death. The family has an extensive history with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, going back to 2013, when AJ was born with opiates in his system and put into foster care.

That same year, Cunningham and her mother engaged in a custody battle for the boy during which AJ's grandmother alleged the baby lived in "constant fear, hunger, and filth" and was denied medical care, food, and clean clothing, the Northwest Herald reports. But he was returned to his parents in 2015, and was allowed to stay with them even after other allegations of neglect. The department is "committed to conducting a comprehensive review," said the acting DCFS director, per the Sun-Times. Records show the family's home was in poor condition and sometimes without power; according to police reports, it was full of trash, dog feces, and urine and often had broken or open windows even in cold weather. A bruise on AJ's leg was once investigated, but blamed on the family dog, the Chicago Tribune reports. (A similarly awful story here.)

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