Police: Body Believed To Be Missing Illinois Boy AJ Freund Found, Parents Charged

Search for missing Illinois 5-year-old focused on boy’s own home, police say

Update 3:50 p.m. EDT April 24: “It is with a heavy heart that the Crystal Lake Police Department reports they have located what they believe to be the body of Andrew ‘A.J.’ Freund early this morning,” Crystal Lake police Chief Jim Black said Wednesday at a news conference.

Andrew’s parents, JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr., face multiple charges, including first-degree murder, in connection to the death.

>> Police: Body believed to be missing Illinois 5-year-old AJ Freund found, parents charged

Original report: Police investigators searching for a 5-year-old boy missing from his Illinois home since Thursday are focusing their attention on that home after K-9 units were unable to detect the boy’s scent anywhere but there, authorities said. 

Andrew “A.J.” Thomas Freund Jr. was reported missing from his Crystal Lake home Thursday morning. His parents told investigators they last saw him around 9:30 p.m. the night before.

“After waking up this morning and being unable to locate him in the home, Andrew’s parents contacted police and reported him missing,” a news release from the Crystal Lake Police Department said

An undated family photo shows 5-year-old Andrew "A.J." Freund, who was reported missing by his parents Thursday, April 18, 2019, in Crystal Lake, Ill. Crystal Lake police say K-9s have not found the scent of the boy anywhere other than inside the family's home, which they say indicates Andrew didn't leave on foot. Searchers from a total of 15 agencies have spent the past five days looking for the boy.
Photo: Crystal Lake Police Department

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Andrew, who is about 3 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs about 70 pounds, has short blond hair. He was last seen wearing a blue Mario sweatshirt and black sweatpants, his father, Andrew Freund Sr., said in a 911 call released Tuesday by authorities.

Crystal Lake police investigators have not issued an Amber Alert for the boy because they cannot prove he was abducted, officials said last week

CNN reported Andrew has not always lived with his parents and that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had been part of the boy’s life since his birth. DCFS spokesman Jassen Strokosch told the news network that Andrew became a ward of the state as a newborn following allegations of neglect by his mother, JoAnn Cunningham.

JoAnn Cunningham, mother of missing 5-year-old child Andrew "A.J." Freund, stands with her attorney George Kililis outside the Freund home as he speaks on her behalf for help finding her son on Friday, April 19, 2019 in Crystal Lake, Ill. Crystal Lake police say K-9s have not found the scent of the boy, who was reported missing the previous morning by his parents, anywhere other than inside the house, which they say indicates Andrew didn't leave on foot. Searchers from a total of 15 agencies have spent the past five days looking for the boy.
Photo: Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune via AP

Andrew was in someone else’s care for about two years before being returned to his parents. CNN reported that DCFS was called twice in 2018 based on allegations of neglect and abuse, but both incidents were determined to be unfounded claims. 

A neighbor, Janelle Butler, told ABC7 in Chicago that residents in Andrew’s neighborhood have been concerned about his and his younger brother’s welfare -- and have let police know it -- over the past year.

“We’ve seen the kids being taken away and are always shocked that they have been returned,” Butler told the news station.  

 
 

Cunningham was in court Tuesday in McHenry County to determine if her younger son, Parker, would remain with her or be placed in protective custody, ABC7 reported

Police officials released audio of the 911 call Freund made following several open records requests by local media. 

“We have a missing child,” Freund tells the dispatcher in the call. “We woke up this morning and he wasn’t … we have a missing child.”

The dispatcher can be heard typing as he asks Freund details about his son’s appearance, such as his race and what he was wearing when he vanished. Freund tells him that he and his wife last saw the boy the night before when he went to bed. 

Listen to the 911 call below, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

The dispatcher asks if the father has any idea to where his son might have wandered.

“No,” Freund responds. “We’ve canvassed the neighborhood, I went to the local park, the local gas station down here where we sometimes take him to buy treats. I spoke with the assistant principal over there at the school where the park is, and they haven’t seen him or any other child. I have no idea where he would be.”

He tells the dispatcher that he went to a doctor’s appointment that morning and, when he returned between 8:15 and 8:30 a.m., he checked on Andrew. The boy was gone, he says. 

The dispatcher asks about pets in the house and if they are missing as well. 

“Nope,” Freund says. 

Andrew Freund Sr., the father of missing 5-year-old Andrew "A.J." Freund, walks near his home on Dole Avenue in Crystal Lake, Ill. on Friday, April 19, 2019, as members of the media try to speak with him. Crystal Lake police say K-9s have not found the scent of the boy, who was reported missing the previous morning by his parents, anywhere other than inside the house, which they say indicates Andrew didn't leave on foot. Searchers from a total of 15 agencies have spent the past five days looking for the boy.
Photo: John Starks/Daily Herald via AP

As police officers arrive outside, Freund tells the dispatcher that he and his wife found no doors or windows open that morning. 

Crystal Lake police officials said FBI agents specializing in missing children cases were on the scene of Andrew’s disappearance by Thursday afternoon. Over the first 24 hours after the boy was reported missing, multiple search and rescue K-9 units, which are trained to find people, were also deployed. 

“The canine teams only picked up Andrew’s scent within the residence, indicating that Andrew had not walked away on foot,” police officials said

The department also activated an Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS) mutual aid request. A total of 15 agencies responded, bringing with them four drones.

 

About 373 acres of ground were covered in a foot search and about 497 acres were covered from the air by the drones, authorities said. They found no sign of Andrew. 

Sonar teams spent about four hours combing the waters of Crystal Lake, which is just blocks from the boy’s home on Dole Avenue. They used cameras to search underneath all docks and piers along the shore and sonar equipment to search the lake itself. 

Again, no sign of Andrew was found, police officials said. 

As of Friday afternoon, authorities said they did not believe there was a threat to the community.

 

“Information obtained currently has police focusing on the residence,” they said in a news release. “This morning police investigators are continuing to actively investigate this case and continue to review all tips or leads sent to the police department. At this time, if the public is looking to assist, we are asking that you search your property and that you report anything suspicious to the Crystal Lake Police Department.”

Detectives continued to work the case over the weekend. By Monday, police officials said Cunningham had stopped cooperating with police in her son’s disappearance.

“On Saturday afternoon, Andrew Freund, the boy’s father, did speak with police detectives,” Monday’s news release said. “Investigators are continuing to review evidence, leads and tips as they become available.

“There has been no arrest in this case at this time.”

Police have not publicly labeled either parent a suspect. 

 

Searchers spent Monday and into Tuesday searching Lippold Park, which is a couple of miles from Andrew’s home. Police officials said Tuesday morning that the Illinois State Police was slated to fly a plane over the area to help guide searchers on the ground.

Sonar teams will also begin focusing on several ponds and smaller bodies of water, they said. 

Detectives were also seeking surveillance video from citizens -- beginning three days before Andrew was reported missing. 

“This would include video from home surveillance devices like the Ring Home Security System,” the latest news release said. “This request is for any video from Monday April 15, 2019, at 7 a.m. through April 18th, 2019 at 9 a.m. Any member of the community who may have video that could help investigators are asked to please email those videos or images to jmattson@crystallake.org.”

A makeshift memorial grows Monday, April 22, 2019, outside the home of 5-year-old Andrew “A.J.” Freund in Crystal Lake, Ill. Crystal Lake police say K-9s have not found the scent of the boy, who was reported missing the morning of April 18 by his parents, anywhere other than inside the house, which they say indicates Andrew didn't leave on foot. Searchers from a total of 15 agencies have spent the past five days looking for the boy.
Photo: Paul Valade/Daily Herald via AP

Cunningham’s attorney, George Kililis, said during a brief news conference outside her home Friday that his client, who stood silently at his side, is not involved in her son’s disappearance. According to ABC7, Kililis said Cunningham was fully cooperative with detectives until she began to sense that she was a suspect in the case. 

The lawyer said he advised her at that time to exercise her right to remain silent, ABC7 reported

Kililis issued a written statement Tuesday in which he said Cunningham is “devastated” by Crystal Lake police officials’ statement calling her uncooperative. He said she was physically with investigators for more than eight hours the day Andrew was reported missing and spoke with multiple agents, both local and federal. 

“While law enforcement was conducting a missing child investigation, Ms. Cunningham was eager to participate,” Kililis wrote, according to ABC7. “When it became clear law enforcement was not conducting a missing child investigation, was not issuing an Amber Alert, had stopped searching for A.J. and considered her a suspect, we did advise her to stop all communications with law enforcement and she did so at our request. This is just us as her attorneys doing our job, not evidence of her wrongdoing, and is not itself suspicious in any way.”

 

Freund spoke directly to his son via the news cameras Friday. 

“A.J., please come home,” Freund said. “We love you very much. You’re not in any trouble, we’re just worried to death. Please, please come home.”

He asked the public to reach out to police with any information on his son’s whereabouts. 

“We’re just extremely worried,” he said. “If anybody knows anything about where Andrew Jr. is, please, please contact the Crystal Lake Police Department. Let’s get him home.”

Anyone with information related to the case can contact the Crystal Lake Police Department at 815-356-3620. Anyone with a cellphone can send an anonymous tip to the department by texting the word CLPDTIP along with the tip information to 847411 (TIP411). 

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