CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (AP) — Authorities searching for a missing 5-year-old Illinois boy who had lived in deplorable conditions dug up his body Wednesday and charged his parents with murder, sadly declaring that the youngster would "no longer have to suffer."

The body, believed to be that of Andrew "AJ" Freund, was covered in plastic and buried in a shallow grave in a rural area of Woodstock in McHenry County, Crystal Lake police Chief James Black said.

Andrew "AJ" Freund parents mugshots

The parents of Andrew "AJ" Freund, Jr. have been charged with first-degree murder in the death of their five-year-old. Pictured left is AJ's father Andrew Freund Sr. and pictured right is AJ's mother JoAnn Cunningham.

Black said investigators went to the site after they interviewed the boy's parents overnight and presented them with cellphone evidence. Woodstock is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of Chicago and a few miles from the family's home in Crystal Lake.

"This is not the outcome that we want to talk about ... but it is the unfortunate result," said Jeffrey Sallet, who runs the FBI in northern Illinois.

The parents, Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham, each face charges of first-degree murder and other crimes. An email seeking comment was sent to Cunningham's lawyer. It wasn't immediately known if Freund has a lawyer.

The couple reported AJ missing last Thursday, telling officers they had last seen him at bedtime the previous night. Freund told a dispatcher that they'd checked "closets, the basement, the garage, everywhere," but investigators quickly knocked down the possibility of a kidnapping.

Speaking to reporters, Black had a message for AJ's relatives: "It is my hope that you may have some solace in knowing that AJ is no longer suffering and his killers have been brought to justice."

Crystal Lake police had visited the house over the years, according to records released by the department. One report described the home as littered with dog feces and urine, including a child's bedroom where the "smell of feces was overwhelming." Another report said the house was "cluttered, dirty and in disrepair," and sometimes without electricity.

5-year-old boy is missing from home, but police don't think he walked away or was abducted

Police looking for a 5-year-old Illinois boy reported missing from his home.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, known as DCFS, had contact with the family since AJ was born with opiates in his body in 2013. The Northwest Herald said he was in foster care for two years before being returned to his parents. A younger brother was removed from the home last week.

Black said the cause of AJ's death remains under investigation. Police removed several items from the home, including a shovel, mattress, paper bags and a plastic storage tub.

"We know you are at peace playing in heaven's playground and are happy you no longer have to suffer," the police chief said in a public message intended for the boy.

DCFS acting director Marc Smith said AJ's death was "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 written statement.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker in March ordered an independent review of DCFS after the deaths of a 2-year-old girl in Decatur and a 2-year-old boy in Chicago. Child welfare workers had contacts with both families.

State Sen. Julie Morrison, a Deerfield Democrat, immediately called for "an independent, comprehensive audit of the DCFS hotline."

"As with many other deaths, it seems the system designed to protect Illinois' children did not work in AJ Freund's case," Morrison said in a statement.

Copyright 2019 Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. 

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(8) comments

Shredder

These two look too old to have a 5 year old. Of course they killed him.

Di

The child protective system needs to quit giving a care about the parents an start focusing on the kids. The parents are the reason they are involved in the first place. Now because of them we bury another child. Why? Lock those two killers up for good, at least the other siblings will have a chance. Sounds to me like AJ never had one. RIP little one, your in God's hands now an safe.

Djamz

More white trash killing their children.

Daddy

"D"jamzinsidehimeveryday -
You racist bigot.

Dean

five counts of first-degree murder? He only killed the little boy - or did he? How can one murder get 5 charges>

Di

They add numerous charges because this will never go to trial. They will make a deal with the parents which will drop a few of those charges an then the state can support the two of them for the rest of their lives when AJ didn't even have a chance at life. Pretty messed up system don't u think?Trust me there is no justice in this world for the victims, not at all. But the parents won't have to work another day in there life but will have everything they need, for free. Let that sink in.

Dean

So the father and son have a different name than the mother? Obviously marriage is not in the cards. Looks like another case of unmarried adults cohabitating and the children suffer because of it. The Lord will take care of these adults.

JustSaying

odds are if child welfare/police are involved with a family due to potential child abuse/neglect, abuse/neglect is going on. now it's too late to help this little guy.

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