AJ Freund, missing Illinois boy, found dead; parents charged in murder | News Coverage from USA

AJ Freund, missing Illinois boy, found dead; parents charged in murder

The parents of a missing 5-year-old boy have been charged with murder after their son was found buried in a shallow grave in a rural area of Illinois, police say.

The body of Andrew “AJ” Freund, who had been reported missing since last Thursday, was found covered in plastic and buried in Woodstock, Illinois, on Wednesday said Crystal Lake police Chief James Black.

Police interviewed the boy’s parents the night before after they had obtained evidence from cell phone data, they said. The couple then gave authorities information that led them to the boy’s grave a few miles from their home in Crystal Lake, police said.

Parents Andrew “Drew” Freund Sr. and Joann Cunningham were charged with murder and a variety of other counts related to the boy’s death and disappearance. The cause of death had not yet been determined, police said.

“To AJ, we know you are at peace playing in heaven’s playground and are happy you no longer have to suffer,” Crystal Lake Police Department said in a statement.

Police began looking for the child after the couple reported him missing last Thursday, saying they hadn’t seen the boy since bedtime the night before. However, authorities ruled out kidnapping quickly.

“This is not the outcome that we want to talk about … but it is the unfortunate result,” Jeffrey Sallet, who heads the FBI in northern Illinois, told reporters Wednesday.

The boy and his family were previously known to police, who had visited their house multiple times over the years, records released by the department show.

In one instance, police described the house covered in dog feces and urine, and in a child’s room the “smell of feces was overwhelming.” Another said the house was “cluttered, dirty and in disrepair.” 

AJ had also been born with opiates in his system in 2013, and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had been in contact with his family ever since.

AJ’s brother was removed from the home and placed in DCFS care since last week.

DCFS acting director Marc Smith called AJ’s death “heartbreaking.”

“The department is committed to conducting a comprehensive review of the entirety of our work with Andrew’s family to understand our shortcomings and to be fully transparent with the public on any steps we are taking to address the issues,” Smith said in a statement.

Contributing: The Associated Press.

Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller.

 

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