Feigenholtz: AJ Freund case a reminder that there is still work to be done


ajfreund 072020CHICAGO – A judge in McHenry Country sentenced JoAnn Cunningham to 35 years in prison Friday for the murder of AJ Freund, her 5-year-old son. State Senator Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), who established a bipartisan, bicameral working group to address shortfalls in the Department of Children and Family Services in the wake of AJ’s death, stressed the importance of addressing and fixing these issues.

“There is no possible sentence that could provide justice to AJ Freund,” Feigenholtz said. “He was only five years old, and was killed by someone who was supposed to be taking care of him. The unfortunate reality is that until we can address and fix the issues plaguing DCFS, AJ’s story won’t be the last.”

Cunningham killed Freund in April of 2019 in what Judge Robert Wilbrandt described as “inhumane, repulsive and, frankly, shocking” actions. Freund was beaten to death by Cunningham while in their home on April 19, 2019, and was buried in a shallow, unmarked grave by his father, Drew Freund. He was found six days later.

The case shined a light onto the deficiencies in the DCFS system, which Freund and Cunningham were a part of, and prompted Feigenholtz to push for the formation of the working group.

“After I heard the tragic news of AJ’s death, my stance was that we as a legislature need to continue our diligent work so that we can ensure DCFS and its partner agencies have the resources and tools they require to protect all of the children that fall under their care,” Feigenholtz said. “We made some progress, but there is still a long road ahead of us and a lot of work to be done.”

Cunningham faced up to a maximum of 60 years in prison. Under Friday’s sentencing, she is ineligible for parole. Drew Freund is also charged with first-degree murder but has not yet faced trial.