CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. — New court documents and photos show the filthy living conditions inside the home of Andrew “AJ” Freund. The photos were obtained by the Freedom of Information Act, and give a first look inside the Crystal Lake home.
The 5-year-old’s parents, Andrew “Drew” Freund and JoAnn Cunningham were charged with AJ's murder about a week after he was reported missing. A few days after AJ was reported missing on April 18, investigators suspected foul play.
After K-9s soon established that AJ did not leave the home, the focus turned to his parents in the days and hours leading up to his disappearance. Already well-known to the Department of Child and Family Services for reported cases of abuse, cases that were found by DCFS to be unfounded, police found the home to be dirty and in a hoarder-like condition.
The photos, which go back to 2013, show the home appearing filthy and in complete disarray which aligns with reports from police around that time.
In regards to the home, investigators described animal droppings on and around AJ's bed, and evidence of drug use by his mother and father.
Other photos were provided by AJ's 18-year-old brother, Austin Butler, which show evidence of happy moments in the boy's life. They show the little boy smiling alongside his older brother.
The first police report filed regarding AJ was written just four days after the boy was born. He had opiates and benzodiazepines in his blood. AJ was taken from his mother by the Department of Children and Family Services and returned months later.
Police reports document 17 visits to the Freund home over the last five years. They describe deplorable living conditions, evidence of drug use by his parents, Cunningham and Andrew “Drew” Freund, and concern for the well-being of AJ and his younger brother, 4-year-old Parker.
In documents released Thursday, McHenry County detectives detailed the findings of their investigation into the Andrew “AJ” Freund case.
The parents' story began to unravel when Drew Freund consented to a search of his cellphone in the early morning hours of April 15. It was then that investigators learned there was a Google search for "Child CPR" on April 15.
They also found a picture of a shopping list that was taken on April 17. According to the documents, several items of note on the shopping list were duct tape, plastic gloves, air freshener and bleach. The items were purchased at the local Jewel-Osco.
In the home, police found laundry that smelled of bleach and at least four bleach bottles. They also found Drew Freund's gym shoes with dripping wet mud.
Under questioning from detectives, the couple tried to explain away the shopping list. They said tape was going to be used for hanging pictures. The bleach was to clean the premises — they said they went through at least one bottle a week. Detectives were skeptical of that information.
In regard to the CPR search in the middle of the night, Drew Freund said perhaps Cunningham was searching CPR for babies in anticipation of her future child. Cunningham is seven months pregnant. In addition to AJ, she is also the mother of his brother, 4-year-old Parker.
Days later on April 23, With the help of the FBI, investigators were able to recover a deleted video on Cunningham’s cellphone and a two-minute video of her berating AJ for urinating on his bed. In the video, AJ can be seen naked except for a few bandages around his wrists and hips.
Drew Freund told investigators that Cunningham believed AJ had “oppositional defiance disorder or ODD and AJ thinks of himself as the leader of the home and is therefore defiant to his parents, lies, disobeys and thinks things should go his way.”
He went on to detail how AJ, for example, would be punished for improperly washing and stacking dishes and lying.
Under mounting evidence, the couple confessed to the murder on the morning of April 24 and admitted that on April 15, AJ had lied about soiled underwear so he was subjected to a cold shower for about 20 minutes. After putting him to bed, Cunningham checked on AJ sometime later where she discovered he had died.
Drew Freund said, "the next day he took AJ's body to the basement and stored him in a tote. He said on 4/17/19 he placed AJ inside several trash bags, placed the body in the trunk of his car and drove him in an area in Woodstock."
He allegedly dug a shallow grave and placed the child in it and covered it with straw and left.
Both parents agreed to let the state's child welfare agency care for their younger son.
AJ’s death has badly shaken the Crystal Lake community. The community is preparing to say their final farewells to the boy.
A visitation for AJ will be held from 1-8 p.m. Friday at the Davenport Family Funeral Home and Crematory, located at 419 E. Terra Cotta Ave. in Crystal Lake.
A shuttle bus and overflow parking are being arranged for those who plan to attend and pay their respects.