Video of badly beaten A.J. Freund on mom’s phone helped police crack case

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CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (WTVO) — Police were able to direct the investigation into the disappearance of 5-year-old A.J. Freund to his parents once they discovered video of the badly beaten child on his mother’s cellphone, the Chicago Tribune reports.

According to court documents, the video, which was taken more than a month prior to A.J.’s disappearance, allegedly showing the boy with severe bruising on his face and body, and featured his mother yelling at him for urinating in his bed.

The documents also said that his mother JoAnn Cunningham, 36, searched for “child cpr” on the night of A.J.’s death.

It was also revealed that A.J.’s father, Andrew Freund, Sr., 60, said A.J. was forced to take a long, cold shower and then was put to bed “cold, wet, and naked” before being found dead the next morning.

The allegations are included in a criminal complaint that outlines first-degree murder, aggravated battery and several other charges against Cunningham, and Freund Sr., in A.J.’s death. 

Investigators say they found the body a few miles from the family’s Crystal Lake home based on information provided by Freund. Crystal Lake is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of Chicago. The couple’s brief court appearance Thursday came exactly a week after Freund triggered a massive search on April 18 when he called 911 to report that the couple hadn’t seen their son since bedtime the night before. Police believe the boy was killed April 15, according to the criminal complaint.

Authorities say the boy had lived in deplorable conditions.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Service had a long history with the family — including an investigation that was launched shortly after AJ was born when tests revealed there were opiates in his body that prompted the agency to place the boy in foster care for nearly two years.

Crystal Lake police also have repeatedly been called to the family’s house. Officers in police reports described finding filthy living conditions, broken windows, evidence of drug use and the overpowering smell of dog feces.

After AJ’s parents reported him missing, authorities immediately placed his younger brother in the custody of state welfare workers.

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