Body of missing US boy found in shallow grave, parents arrested

Dan Whitcomb, Reuters

Posted at Apr 25 2019 06:04 AM

Crystal Lake Police Department

The body of a 5-year-old boy who was reported missing from his Crystal Lake, Illinois home last week was discovered buried in a shallow grave on Wednesday and his parents were arrested on murder charges, local police said.

The remains of Andrew "AJ" Freund were found in a nearby community, wrapped in plastic, based on information provided to investigators by his parents, Crystal Lake Deputy Police Chief Tom Kotlowski said in a statement posted on the department's Facebook page.

"To AJ's family, it is our hope that you may have some solace in knowing that AJ is no longer suffering and his killers have been brought to justice," Kotlowski said in the statement. "To AJ, we know you are at peace playing in heaven's playground and are happy you no longer have to suffer," he said.

The Chicago Sun-Times newspaper reported earlier this week that police had been concerned at least since September about living conditions in the home where AJ Freund lived with his parents and younger brother.

The paper said that according to police reports the home was cluttered, dirty and in disrepair, with broken windows and the overwhelming smell of feces. AJ's younger brother has been taken into protective custody, the Sun-Times reported.

The boy's father, Andrew Freund, reported him missing on Thursday morning, telling police that AJ was not in bed in the morning. Authorities launched an exhaustive search in and around Crystal Lake, about 45 miles (72 km) northwest of Chicago, assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Police said they would conduct an autopsy on the body, which was found in a remote area of Woodstock, Illinois, about 20 miles (32 km) northwest of Crystal Lake along a major highway. No cause of death was immediately released.

Television images showed forensic investigators working in a field in Woodstock, shielded by a white canopy.

Both parents, Andrew Freund and Joann Cunningham, were arrested on suspicion of first degree murder, aggravated battery and failure to report a dead child. They were expected to appear for a bond hearing in the coming days.

An attorney for Cunningham could not be reached by Reuters for comment on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear if Andrew Freund had retained an attorney.