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WOODSTOCK, Ill. – Members of the group “Roar for AJ” placed balloons in his honor ahead of Joanne Cunningham’s first sentencing hearing on Thursday.

AJ Freund’s mother, Joanne Cunningham, changed her plea to guilty to first-degree murder earlier this year. She admitted she beat Freund in a shower.

Cunningham was supposed to be sentenced in april, but it was delayed due to the pandemic.

Freund’s father, Andrew Freund, is also charged with first-degree murder and pleaded not guilty. He’s being held on $5,000,000 bond and has a status hearing scheduled for July 30.

The group “Roar for AJ” placed balloons in front of the McHenry County Courthouse Wednesday and talked about how the case deeply affected the community.

“It’s just unfathomable how someone could hurt a child, let alone their own child,” said co-founder Tracy Kotzman. “The balloons are supposed to signify black and blue as bruising, blue is a child abuse awareness color and white is the innocence of these children.”

Cunningham is facing 20-60 years behind bars. The hearing begins at 9 a.m. and is expected to carry over into Friday afternoon.