— WGN TV News (@WGNNews) July 16, 2020
Illinois woman JoAnn Cunningham, 37, was sentenced on Friday to 35 years in prison for the murder of her son AJ Freund, 5. She faced up to 60 years in prison. The victim’s family said Cunningham should’ve gotten the maximum.
“We know that whatever the punishment, it will not ease the loss and pain we feel,” they said in a statement, according to The Chicago Tribune. “AJ was an innocent, precious little boy whose life was taken from him after he endured, what we now know, was much pain and suffering. We had expected JoAnn would pay for that by spending her natural life in prison.”
The case against the boy’s father, Cunningham’s co-defendant Andrew Freund Sr., is ongoing.
According to records, he allegedly told authorities Cunningham hit the boy on April 14, 2019, and forced him into a cold shower to make him admit to soiling his underwear. She put the spray nozzle right in the victim’s face.
“Sometimes lose his balance and fall in the tub,” the elder Freund allegedly said.
Cunningham allegedly woke Sr. up early the next day at 3 a.m. to tell him the victim was not breathing. When it was determined that the child was dead, Freund Sr. put the body in a plastic tote, later buried the corpse about seven miles away in the city of Woodstock, and called 911 on April 18th. He allegedly feigned ignorance on AJ’s whereabouts.
At her sentencing, Cunningham blamed drugs and a miserable life.
“Nobody will ever understand unless they’ve walked in my shoes or know the torment I’ve suffered,” she said on Thursday. “And I will try to rise above human scorn and judgment. I never thought of my own well-being and even if I did, I couldn’t help myself. I was mentally unavailable even to myself. Unfortunately, I managed to dispel my anxiety, depression and pain with drugs.”
Cunningham–a mother of 20-year-old man, a surviving 5-year-old boy, and a 13-month-old girl–said her children were “her whole world,” and the reason she breathed.
“Being a mother defines me,” she said.
A clinical psychologist who analyzed her said she faced major personality issues including anti-social and narcissistic traits, according to the Tribune. She did also deal with anxiety and depression.
“It was a horrible death, preceded by a horrible life,” Judge Robert Wilbrandt said about AJ Freund’s murder.
In June, McHenry County prosecutors shared information from Cunningham’s psych evaluation was was possibly exculpatory for Freund Sr.
[Screengrab via WGN]
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