Mom Not Cooperating In Search For Missing 5-Year-Old; Boy's Scent Found In Car Trunk
Andrew “AJ” Freund vanished last Thursday; police don't believe he was abducted or ran away.
CRYSTAL LAKE, IL — The search continues to locate a 5-year-old boy who was reported missing last week, with investigators focusing on the child’s home, where he was last seen alive. Police said on Monday that the boy’s mother is refusing to cooperate with them in the investigation.
Authorities say Andrew “AJ” Freund was last seen by his parents, Andrew Freund, Sr., and JoAnn Cunningham, at about 9 P.M. on Wednesday, April 17, in the family’s home in Crystal Lake, a northwest suburb of Chicago.
The following morning, Andrew Freund called 911 to report that the couple had put AJ to bed the night before, and when they woke up, he was gone. Police have released a tape of the call, on which Freund says, “We, uh, we have a missing child. Woke up this morning and he wasn’t, wasn’t, uhhh….”
Freund tells the dispatcher they noticed AJ gone about 30 minutes before calling, and that he scoured the neighborhood to find the boy, stating, “I went to the local park, the local gas station down here where we sometimes to take him to buy treats. I spoke with the assistant principal over there at the school. They haven’t seen him or any other child. I have no idea where he would be.”
Later on Thursday, the FBI and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children joined the Crystal Lake Police Department in the hunt for AJ. The searchers covered about 373 acres on foot, another 500 acres by air, and they even examined the waters of Crystal Lake itself.
On Friday, police said the investigation was focusing on AJ’s home and that there was no evidence that the boy had been kidnapped or just walked out on his own. Additionally, the police state that the little boy's scent was detected by K9 units in the trunk of his parents' car.
Reports also emerged over the weekend that the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) had been involved with AJ’s family since 2013, when the missing boy was born with opiates in his system. Police allegedly visited the family’s home multiple times to look into allegations of neglect and abuse. The last DCFS visit to AJ’s home reportedly took place in December 2018.
Another child, AJ’s younger brother, Parker, has been placed in protective custody. A hearing will be held today to determine who will get custody of Parker. JoAnn Cunningham, the boys' mom, is expected to attend.
In a press statement, the Crystal Lake PD said Cunningham was not cooperating with them, declaring, “As of today’s date, JoAnn Cunningham, the boy’s mother, continues to be uncooperative with police. On Saturday afternoon, Andrew Freund, the boy’s father, did speak with police detectives. Investigators are continuing to review evidence, leads, and tips as they become available.”
Cunningham’s attorneys responded by stating, as reported by WLS Chicago, “JoAnn is particularly devastated by the Crystal Lake Police Department's press release that she refuses to cooperate and that as a result, she is a suspect… While law enforcement was conducting a missing child investigation, Ms. Cunningham was eager to participate. When it became clear law enforcement was not conducting a missing child investigation, was not issuing an Amber Alert, had stopped searching for AJ, and considered her a suspect, we did advise her to stop all communications with law enforcement and she did so at our request."
Andrew “AJ” Freund has blond hair. He stands about 3 feet, 5 inches tall and weighs about 70 pounds. He was last seen wearing a Mario sweatshirt and black sweatpants.
Authorities ask anyone with information to call the Crystal Lake Police Department at (815) 356-3620. You can also send an anonymous tip by texting the word CLPDTIP along with the tip to 847411.