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Illinois boy found buried in shallow grave; parents charged

This undated photo provided by the Crystal Lake, Illinois Police Department shows Andrew "AJ" Freund. Crystal Lake police say the missing boy's Freund's parents last saw him about 9 p.m. Wednesday April 17, 2019. Police say Andrew's parents reported him missing when they woke up Thursday and couldn't find him in their home. Police in the Chicago suburb of Crystal Lake say an FBI team that specializes in missing children is helping them search for the 5-year-old boy. (Crystal Lake Police Department via AP)

AJ's parents, Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham, face murder and other charges in the boy's death.

Posted: Apr 24, 2019 2:06 PM
Updated: Apr 24, 2019 2:38 PM

CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (AP) — Authorities on Wednesday dug up the body of a 5-year-old Illinois boy who was reported missing last week and charged his parents with murder and other counts.

The body, believed to be that of Andrew "AJ" Freund, was wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave in a rural area of Woodstock, Crystal Lake police Chief James Black said at a news conference. Woodstock is about 50 miles northwest of Chicago and a few miles from the family's home in Crystal Lake.

Black said investigators were led to the body after they interviewed the boy's parents overnight and presented them with cellphone evidence.

The parents, Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham, each face five counts of first-degree murder and other charges, including aggravated battery.

In a message intended for the slain boy, the chief said, "We know you are at peace playing in heaven's playground and are happy you no longer have to suffer."

Black said his efforts are underway to confirm that the body is AJ's and that his department won't be releasing further details in an effort to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation.

Officers removed several items from the family home on Wednesday, including a shovel, mattress, paper bags and a plastic storage tub.

Authorities said the couple reported AJ missing on Thursday and told officers they had last seen him at bedtime the previous night.

Early on in their investigation, though, police said they didn't believe the boy was abducted or that he had left the home on foot. They also said they were "focusing on the residence and the individuals that may have seen or had contact with AJ last," and that Cunningham wasn't cooperating with detectives.

On Tuesday, the department released more than 60 pages of police reports written by officers who responded to various calls about the house, which is about 45 miles (72 kilometers) northwest of Chicago.

One report described seeing the home littered with dog feces and urine, and a children's bedroom where "the smell of feces was overwhelming." Another report said the officer found the house to be "cluttered, dirty and in disrepair," and without electrical power.

The heavily-redacted reports also indicate state child welfare workers were called after officers spotted a large bruise on one of the young boys living there, but that the children appeared to be "healthy and happy" and were not removed from the house.

Cunningham and Freund were in court Tuesday seeking custody of their 4-year-old son, Parker. Parker was taken into custody by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services on Thursday after Andrew was reported missing by his parents.

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