In jail interview, mother denies killing AJ, while father's case continued

Andrew Freund Sr., charged with the April murder of his 5-year-old son, AJ, made a brief appearance Thursday in McHenry County court, but it was JoAnn Cunningham, the boy's mother who also is charged in his death, who made news with a jailhouse interview.

Freund, 60, and Cunningham, 36, have remained at the McHenry County jail on $5 million bail each since being charged April 24 with first-degree murder, aggravated battery and other offenses in connection with AJ's beating death.

CBS 2 Chicago released a portion of an interview with Cunningham scheduled to air Thursday night. In it, Cunningham says she would rather kill herself than hurt her family or anybody else.

When asked directly, a sobbing Cunningham denied killing AJ.

"No. I would never hurt my children," she tells Brad Edwards in the clip. She acknowledged using drugs while pregnant but says it is something she can't take back.

She also said "if it's Drew," referring to AJ's father, he needs to "tell them so everyone else isn't suffering."

Assistant Public Defender Angelo Mourelatos, who appeared on Cunningham's behalf at her last court appearance, was not available Thursday.

Co-counsel Assistant Public Defender Richard Behof said Cunningham was advised not to speak to the media.

"She was told explicitly my thoughts on the matter," he said. "While a case is pending, it never helps."

Freund and Cunningham previously appeared before Judge Robert Wilbrandt separately on the same day but recently have had staggered court dates.

On Thursday, Freund Sr. was before Wilbrandt for a status hearing regarding various records that had been subpoenaed by prosecutors. Among them are Freund's employment records, timecards and other information from Contractor's Inc., of Riverside, from Jan. 2 through April 24.

Those were received and turned over to Freund's court-appointed special public defender, Henry Sugden, who received a continuance to Oct. 24 to review those and other materials.

After the hearing, Sugden said he was aware of the Cunningham interview but Freund had not heard it.

"It's crazy," Sugden said. "You never have your client talk to the press.

"Of course she'll deny it."

Silent protesters who have been following the case and carrying signs outside the courthouse during most proceedings, including Thursday, said they were not swayed by Cunningham's "fake tears" but said some good could be found.

"At least it's in the media. It's AJ Freund. From Day 1, that's what it's about," said Kat Politick, who organized the Facebook discussion group Never Forget AJ, which claims 6,200 members.

Authorities have said AJ died after being hit on the head multiple times April 15, three days before his father called 911 to report him missing. AJ's body was recovered from a shallow grave near Woodstock six days later.

Cunningham's next court date is Oct. 17.

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