Illinois mom pleads guilty to murdering 5-year-old boy months after body found in shallow grave

An Illinois woman charged in the beating death of her 5-year-old son pleaded guilty to murder Thursday, according to reports.

JoAnn Cunningham, 36, entered her plea in the April death of Andrew “AJ” Freund, who died from multiple blunt force injuries to his head.

When asked by Judge Robert Wilbrandt if she had anything to say, she said, “Nothing at this time, your honor.”

Prosecutors dropped other charges against her, the Chicago Tribune reported.

She would face 20 to 60 years in prison. The judge did not immediately set a sentencing date.

JoAnn Cunningham, 36, entered her guilty plea in the April murder of Andrew “AJ” Freund. (Reuters/Crystal Lake PD)

JoAnn Cunningham, 36, entered her guilty plea in the April murder of Andrew “AJ” Freund. (Reuters/Crystal Lake PD)

In April, a massive search involving several law enforcement agencies was launched after the boy went missing from the family’s house in Crystal Lake.

The boy’s father, Andrew Freund, 60, later led police to a shallow grave where the boy had been buried in a wooded area. The parents, who are not married, were subsequently charged with first-degree murder and ordered held on $5 million bail each.

The father had been confronted with a cellphone video that showed AJ bruised and the voice of a woman believed to be his mother screaming at the boy for urinating on the bed.

In an affidavit from a sheriff’s detective that was made public in May, the mother also allegedly forced AJ to take a cold shower shortly before his death as punishment for lying about soiling his underwear.

The mother and father said they punished the boy with cold showers after they stopped beating him as punishment.


The night the boy died, Freund said they put the boy to bed “cold, wet and naked.”

After Cunningham found him unresponsive, Freund put the boy’s body in a plastic container, which they later buried, Freund said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.