The Federal Bureau of Investigation and local police used cell phone data to locate the body of a 5-year-old boy who was reported missing from his Crystal Lake, Illinois home last Thursday.
JoAnn Cunningham, 36, and Andrew Freund Sr, 60, were charged with murder Wednesday, hours after authorities found the body of their son, Andrew "AJ" Freund, wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave on a farm in rural Woodstock.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Crystal Lake police Chief James Black said both parents confessed and provided information about the body's location after they were confronted with cell phone data that shows their cell phones pinged off a tower near the farm, about 15 minutes from their home.
Freund and Cunningham are charged with first-degree murder, aggravated battery, and failure to report the death of a child. They will go before a judge on Thursday morning.
Chief Black spoke directly to the child after announcing the charges.
"To AJ," he said, "we know you are at peace playing in heaven's playground and are happy you no longer have to suffer."
The body was found on farmland bordered by woods and a small stream. An autopsy is scheduled to determine the cause of death.
A neighbor who watched the farm for the owner said deputies knocked on his door early Wednesday and said they were going to begin a search.
Luis Maldonado described the area as very isolated and remote.
"It's very quiet," he said. "If they found a body here, I don't know how they found this place."
Freund and Cunningham met in 2012 when Freund represented her during a divorce. She soon fell pregnant and AJ was born in 2013 with opiates in his system.
Cunningham's attorney said they were never married.
Freund is authorized by the state to practice law, but he is on probation from a 2015 suspension by the Illinois Supreme Court, according to the Chicago Tribune.
He and Cunningham were found guilty of indirect civil contempt for the removal of property from her marital home, in violation of a court order. He was sentenced to two weeks in jail, and she was sentenced to serve 30 days in jail.
Freund was also diagnosed with opioid and cocaine abuse, and was ordered to abstain and continue treatment and participate in a 12-step treatment program with progress reports to the court.
ABC7 News reports that the family had a long history with the Department of Children and Family Services since AJ was born with opiates in his blood. DCFS and local police went out to the home 17 times since 2013. The last visit was in December 2018.
During one visit to the home on Dole Avenue, police described the living conditions as "unacceptable." The small house was littered with animal feces and urine on the floors, and there was a strong odor of feces in the children's bedroom. There were several broken windows and open windows, and open spaces in the kitchen floor revealing sub flooring.
One officer responded to the home when a neighbor called to say the house was without power for weeks. Cunningham refused to let the officer inside the house, but the officer spotted the children through a window. The officer called a supervisor, then called DCFS, but was told a power outage was not sufficient reason to remove the children.
After AJ was reported missing on Thursday, his 3-year-old brother was removed from the home and placed in the care of DCFS.
DCFS acting director Marc Smith said in a statement that the news of AJ's death was "heartbreaking," and that the agency's priority is the care and safety of AJ's brother.
"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," he said.