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A Stranger Saw Her Crying and Offered Help. Things Spiraled

'Chicago Tribune' dives deep into the tragic story of AJ Freund
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2019 5:00 PM CDT
This combination of undated photos provided by the McHenry County Sheriff's Department in Woodstock, Ill., on Thursday, April 25, 2019 shows JoAnn Cunningham, left, and Andrew Freund.   (McHenry County Sheriff's Department via AP, File)

(Newser) – JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund are accused of killing their 5-year-old son in April. Prosecutors allege the couple forced AJ "to remain in a cold shower for an extended period of time and/or struck (him) on or about his body," causing his death, then buried him in a shallow grave. In a lengthy piece for the Chicago Tribune, Christy Gutowski looks at the chance way in which Cunningham and Freund met—along with the troubled backgrounds they brought to the table and the rocky days that passed between their meeting and her pregnancy. Freund first spied Cunningham crying in 2012 in the McHenry County courthouse in Illinois. She and her husband were divorcing, but she had no lawyer or money. Freund was an attorney and told her he could help her at no charge.

What followed was "a dysfunctional relationship fueled by drug abuse and violence," writes Gutowski. While Freund, now 60, was voted "most desirable date" in high school, he developed alcohol issues after starting his law career. He struggled with opiates, too, and practiced law intermittently from his home—while also bagging groceries part-time. A little more than a decade ago Cunningham, now 36, started taking pain meds for what she said was back pain due to fibromyalgia; her pill use exploded over the years and a heroin addiction followed. She moved into Freund's home in late 2012. A roommate said the two were constantly fighting, physically violent, and using drugs; Cunningham's mother says dog and cat waste was everywhere. Arrests for retail theft followed for both in the summer of 2013—and Cunningham was now pregnant. (Read the full story.)

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