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AJ Freund died from blows to the head, coroner says

Hundreds of people attended a vigil Wednesday night for AJ Freund, 5. | Matt Hendrickson/Sun-Times

A 5-year-old Crystal Lake boy whose body was found Wednesday after nearly a week of exhaustive searching in the northwest suburbs was killed by blows to his head, officials revealed Thursday.

The results of Andrew “AJ” Freund’s autopsy were released Thursday afternoon, hours after a McHenry County judge ordered his parents, Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham, each held on $5 million bail on charges of first-degree murder in his death.

Criminal complaints filed Thursday in McHenry County Circuit Court showed Andrew was killed April 15 — three days before his father called 911 to report him missing — after his parents forced him “to remain in a cold shower for an extended period of time” and “struck [Andrew] on or about his body.”

Andrew died of injuries to his skull and brain as a result of repeated blunt-force trauma, according to a statement from the McHenry County coroner’s office.

Andrew “AJ” Freund
Andrew “AJ” Freund | National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

After Andrew’s death, Freund Sr. wrapped his son’s body in plastic and buried it the same day in a shallow grave in a semi-rural area of suburban Woodstock, about seven miles from his home, according to court records and police statements.

Both parents, who are also facing charges of aggravated battery, domestic battery and failure to report a child’s death, were due back in court on Monday.

Following their hearings, the Daily Herald reported that other detainees at the McHenry County Jail “appeared to hang the note, ‘RIP AJ,’ in a cellblock window above the entry to the McHenry County jail.”

Cunningham and Freund Sr. reported their son missing on the morning of April 18, claiming they’d last seen him while putting him to bed the night before, police said.

In a 911 call released by police earlier this week, Freund can be heard telling a dispatcher that he’s searched the home and neighborhood for Andrew.

“I have no idea where he would be,” Freund told the dispatcher.

Local law enforcement agencies, state police and the FBI spent the next week searching the area for Andrew until Freund Sr. and Cunningham provided information early Wednesday that led them to the boy’s body, Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black said.

Andrew was born with opiates in his system in 2013 and was placed in a foster home, the Department of Children and Family Services has said. He was returned to his mother two years later.

DCFS removed Andrew’s younger brother from the home while investigating allegations of neglect the same day Andrew was reported missing, the agency said.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Acting DCFS Director Marc Smith said the agency was “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.”

THE FREUND INVESTIGATION:

Parents get $5 million bail in AJ Freund murder case

Parents charged with murder after Andrew ‘AJ’ Freund found dead

State investigates handling of AJ Freund case after boy found dead

Missing boy, 5, lived in Crystal Lake home full of dog feces, records show

Family of missing Crystal Lake boy has lengthy history with DCFS: officials

FBI searching for missing 5-year-old from Crystal Lake