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White Mother Beats Her 5-Year-Old To Death Then Tells Racist Cops He's Gone Missing

Devil: JoAnn Cunningham

The mother of slain five-year-old AJ Freund has pleaded guilty to murder for beating him to death in April.   

JoAnn Cunningham, 36, entered the plea during a Thursday hearing at the McHenry County courthouse in Illinois.  

She faces 20 to 60 years in prison after making a deal with prosecutors to have additional assault charges dismissed.  

Cunningham and AJ's father, Andrew Freund were charged with first-degree murder and other crimes back in April. 

Prosecutors said AJ was beaten to death at the family's home in Crystal Lake on April 15, three days before his parents told police he'd disappeared from his bed in the middle of the night. 

A desperate weeklong search for the boy came to a tragic end when his body was found wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave in Woodstock.  

An autopsy determined AJ died from blunt force trauma to the head. He also had other visible marks and bruises on his body.  

R.I.P. (Rest In Piss): AJ

Andrew Freund has yet to enter a plea. Both killers have been held in the McHenry County jail on $5million bail.  

Cunningham's guilty plea comes roughly two months after the diabolical white mother tearfully denied having hurt her child and instead pointed the finger at Freund.

Devil: Andrew Freund

'I would rather kill myself than hurt my family. I'd rather kill myself than hurt anybody,' The lying pile of excrement said in a tearful jailhouse interview with CBS

She admitted that she used drugs when she was pregnant, and said it was 'something I cannot take back'.

Asked directly if she killed AJ, she replied: 'No. I would never hurt my children.' 

In an apparent attempt to cast blame on AJ's father, she said: 'If it's Drew, then he needs to grow some balls and he needs to tell them so everyone isn't suffering. You know, I'm scared.' 

In the wake of AJ's murder it emerged that Child Protective Services had been called to the family's home more than two dozen times over the course of the boy's short life. 

After Cunningham and Freund's arrests, AJ's younger brother was brought under the care of a state welfare agency. Cunningham gave birth to a girl while in police custody, and that baby is also under the state's care.  

Freund also tried to cast responsibility off on Cunningham when he was questioned by investigators who confronted him with a disturbing cell-phone video which showed the mother berating her son after he wet himself.  

The two-minute video, which was found on Cunningham's phone, shows AJ naked on a bare mattress while she berates him for urinating on the bed. The boy is seen holding an ice pack to his face.

When AJ removes the ice pack in the clip, 'deep red bruising' can be seen around his eyes and a 'yellowish-greenish bruising' is visible around his neck and upper chest, according to court records.    

Freund told investigators that Cunningham had punished AJ with a cold shower after the boy 'lied about soiled underwear'. 

The father revealed that he and Cunningham had decided on cold showers as a 'less violent form of punishment' because he wanted her to 'stop with the hard physical beatings'. 

Freund said that he helped AJ out of the shower on the night night the boy was murdered after he'd been under the water for 20 minutes, according to documents obtained by WGNTV

He then put AJ to bed 'cold, wet, and naked' and said Cunningham later went to check on him. 

Cunningham then woke up Freund and used his phone to do a Google search for 'Child CPR', according to court records. 

At one point, Freund allegedly told Cunningham that he believed AJ had died. 

Freund told investigators that he took AJ's body to the basement the following morning and stored him in a tote. 

On the night of April 17, he placed AJ's body in several trash bags and put him in the trunk of his car. He then drove to an area in Woodstock, Illinois and buried his son in a shallow grave, covering it with straw. He later directed investigators to the grave.

The court documents reveal how Freund and Cunningham's story began to unravel after they first reported AJ missing on April 18. 

Suspicions quickly turned to the couple after K-9s indicated that AJ had not left his home in Crystal Lake on the night his parents claimed he had disappeared. 

The home had been frequently visited by the Department of Child and Family Services through the years, and investigators noted that Freund and Cunningham were 'known and self-admitted prior narcotics abusers'. 

Investigators revealed that the couple's home had been in a 'hoarder-like condition', with garbage bags full of 'wet refuse' stacked up in the basement and 'piles of refuse' filling the garage. 

Amid the numerous bags was a garbage bag in the dining room that had white laundry inside that was 'wet and smelled heavily of bleach', the documents read. 

Investigators also found an empty bleach bottle in the kitchen garbage can, and three more empty bleach bottles in a garbage can by the garage. 

They also found a picture of a shopping list, taken on April 17, that included duct tape, plastic gloves, air freshener, and bleach. All the items had been purchased at a local Jewel-Osco. 

Freund claimed that Cunningham went through a gallon of bleach a week to clean the family's home. He said the duct tape was for hanging photographs. 

When police first found the Google search for 'Child CPR', Freund had claimed Cunningham, who was seven months pregnant with another man's baby at the time of her arrest, was preparing for her future child. 

Documents also reveal that investigators interviewed the couple's four-year-old son Parker, who told them that his mother said AJ had fallen 'down the stairs and had a lot of owies'.

Freund told investigators that Cunningham believed AJ had 'oppositional defiant disorder', in which a child shows defiant and disobedient behavior to authority figures.

He claimed that the five-year-old thought of himself as 'the leader of his home' and is 'therefore defiant to his parents, lies, disobeys and thinks things should go his way,' the court documents state. 

In one example, Freund said AJ had washed and stacked the dishes improperly, and 'lied' about his dishwashing performance. They punished him by locking the boy in his room for five hours.  

Freund and Cunningham  have been charged with five counts of first-degree murder, as well as aggravated battery, aggravated domestic battery, and failure to report a missing child or child death. Freund is also charged with concealing a body.    

Just four months before his death, AJ told a hospital ER doctor 'maybe mommy didn't mean to hurt me'. He also told the doctor: 'Maybe someone hit me with a belt.'

AJ's discussion with the unidentified doctor four months ago is set out in a timeline of events drawn up by DCFS and obtained by  

Social workers paid a total of 27 visits - 18 of them announced - to AJ's home.   

Cunningham had two complaints brought against her before AJ's birth, one for inadequate supervision and the other for 'risk of harm and environmental neglect.' Both complaints were dismissed.

The department got a call on its hotline on December 18 last year alleging 'environmental neglect' affecting both AJ and Parker. 

The caller said AJ was covered in 'cuts, welts and bruises' and police found that AJ had a 'large bruise' on his hip. They also noted that the house's ceiling was falling down, the floor was torn up, and the children's bedroom smelled like dog urine. 

Cunningham was then arrested - not for harming the children, but for driving on a suspended license - and the two boys were temporarily placed in protective custody.

That same day the brothers were interviewed at Crystal Lake police station. AJ said he got the bruise when the family dog - a 60lb boxer called Lucy - pawed him.

When Freund arrived at the police station to bond out his girlfriend, she was allowed to leave with the children on condition that she take AJ to the ER.

'ER physician examined Andrew and could not state how his injury was caused,' the report states. 'The doctor was concerned because Andrew stated that "Maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe mommy didn't mean to hurt me.'" 

A DCFS investigator made one last announced visit at the couple's home and in January the department dismissed the hotline report as unfounded. DCFS made no further contact with the family until April 18, when AJ was reported missing.  

AJ, who was born with opioids in his system, was initially taken from his parents immediately after his October 2013 birth and placed in the care of a cousin.  

He was returned to his parents in 2015 when he was 18 months old and DCFS closed their case on him in April the following year.

But in March last year, warning bells began to ring again when Cunningham was found passed out in her car. At the time, AJ 'was observed at the hospital to have odd bruising on his face'.

Within two months the case had been closed after Cunningham agreed to enter a drug treatment program.

The DCFS says it is now 'conducting a comprehensive review of our work with AJ's family'. 

'Both the caseworker and the supervisor responsible for this case have been placed on administrative duty and will have no casework responsibilities as this review takes place,' it added. 

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