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MCHENRY COUNTY, Ill. — The mother of 5-year-old AJ Freund pleaded guilty Thursday to murder in the beating death of her son.

JoAnn Cunningham, 36, appeared in the McHenry County courthouse and entered a guilty plea to a first-degree murder charge in AJ’s death.

Prosecutors said AJ’s parents, Cunningham and 60-year-old Andrew Freund Sr., beat him and then buried his body in a shallow grave in Woodstock in April.

As part of the plea deal, Cunningham admitted she struck AJ sometime between April 15 to 17 and her actions caused him death or great bodily harm. She also admitted to putting AJ in a cold shower for 20 minutes where the spray caused him to fall multiple times.

Cunningham faces 20 to 60 years in prison. The plea deal removes language that his killing was brutal and heinous from the murder charge which will limit her potential sentence to 60 years and not life.

Andrew Fruend Sr. has blamed Cunningham for the boy’s death and told investigators previously she had struck him several times after the boy lied to her about soiling underwear.

Freund Sr. remains charged with first-degree murder and accused of burying the boy’s body.
The McHenry County State’s Attorney said Cunningham’s plea came about rather quickly and she will cooperate in Fruend Sr.’s trial.

A status hearing for Cunningham is scheduled for Jan. 30.

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