Crystal Lake residents angry, heartbroken over murder charges against AJ's parents
News that the parents of missing 5-year-old Andrew "AJ" Freund were charged with his killing left many Crystal Lake residents angry and heartbroken.
About 20 residents attended a packed news conference at Crystal Lake's city hall, where Police Chief James Black announced first-degree murder and other charges against Andrew Freund Sr. and his wife, JoAnn Cunningham. Some residents dabbed tears from their eyes when Black said AJ was found Wednesday morning wrapped in plastic in a shallow grave in Woodstock.
Crystal Lake resident Michael Fischer attended the news conference with his 5-year-old son, Abel. He said he grew up with Cunningham in Harvard and knew her through elementary and high school.
Fischer said he wanted to believe in the best in AJ's parents since the boy was reported missing a week ago. Similar to other residents, he became more suspicious the longer AJ was gone.
"I was hoping this wouldn't be the outcome. But there is a sense of justice that, hopefully, is going to be served here and I think there's some kind of conclusion to this," he said outside city hall with his son atop his shoulders.
Jennifer Falbo, who was among volunteers who searched for AJ, spoke for others when she said she was heartbroken, angry and devastated. Falbo was accompanied by friend Karen Danielson to hear the criminal charges announced.
"It's sick," Falbo said. "Parents are supposed to shelter their children and protect their children and not do this. This is very, very sad."
Crystal Lake resident Jessica Borg with her father, retired McHenry County Deputy Scott Milliman, organized search groups and a Facebook page titled 'Help find AJ." odstock Square.
"This is the day, finally, he gets peace and justice starts," Borg said.
Janelle Butler, who lives across the street from the Freund house, recalled walking her dog about 10:30 p.m. in the snow in January 2018 when she heard a child in a car on the Freund family's driveway say he was cold. She said a car door was open and she saw AJ pop up in the back seat.
She said the boy's parents were arguing and he expressed concern for his mother.
"I got my phone out to call police," Butler said. "Obviously, I wasn't going to go in the house. I could hear them arguing."
At the mother's request, Butler said, she didn't call police. She said her offer of help was declined and that she did not see the woman or her children for at least two weeks after the incident.
• Daily Herald staff writer Mick Zawislak contributed to this report.