AJ Freund murder: JoAnn Cunningham challenges conviction in beating death of 5-year-old son

JoAnn Cunningham says she had postpartum depression and psychosis when she killed her son.
WOODSTOCK, Ill. -- A suburban Chicago woman who pleaded guilty in her 5-year-old son's death is challenging her conviction and 35-year sentence, saying she had postpartum depression and psychosis when she killed her son.

The video featured is from a previous report.

JoAnn Cunningham, 39, of Crystal Lake, claimed in her petition for post-conviction relief that she did not receive adequate counsel. She claimed to have been seeing demons and believed her son was possessed by a demon, and said she sought an exorcism from a priest, a chaplain and AJ's father, Andrew Freund, The Northwest Herald reported.

EMBED More News Videos

"I love him and I miss him and there's nothing I wouldn't do to bring him back," Cunningham told the court.



McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt, who sentenced Cunningham, said Friday he has 90 days to decide whether the post-conviction petition has merit. If relief is granted, it could result in Cunningham's guilty plea and sentence being set aside and a date could be set for a new trial.

If Wilbrandt finds her claims are warranted, he then would assign Cunningham an attorney and allow prosecutors to provide their input, the judge said during a hearing Friday.

At the time of AJ's death, Cunningham was pregnant and she gave birth to a daughter while in the McHenry County Jail. That child and another son, who was about two years younger than AJ, were placed into foster care. Cunningham is incarcerated at the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln.

EMBED More News Videos

A sentencing hearing began Thursday morning for JoAnn Cunningham, who pleaded guilty to killing her little boy A.J. Freund in a murder that shocked the northwest suburbs.



Andrew Freund, 63, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, aggravated battery of a child and concealment of a homicidal death. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison and is incarcerated at the Illinois River Correctional Center in Canton.

Authorities have said that on April 15, 2019, Cunningham became angry with her son when she found soiled underwear he tried to hide. He died after she forced the child to stand in a cold shower for at least 20 minutes, hit him in the head with the shower head, then put him to bed cold, wet and naked, according to authorities.

His body was found wrapped in plastic and concealed in a shallow grave near the family's home in Crystal Lake.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE
AJ Freund: Crystal Lake home of murdered boy demolished
Sentencing date set for JoAnn Cunningham, mother of AJ Freund
JoAnn Cunningham, mother of slain Crystal Lake boy AJ Freund, pleads guilty to murder

McHenry County commissioner among 2 DCFS workers sued in AJ Freund case
Andrew 'AJ' Freund's abuse repeatedly reported to DCFS, lawsuit alleges
Crystal Lake community holds memorial walk to honor AJ Freund's birthday
Efforts underway to tear down Crystal Lake home of AJ Freund: Report
Andrew Freund, father of Crystal Lake boy AJ Freund, deemed mentally fit for trial in son's death
Wrongful death lawsuit may be filed against DCFS for handling of AJ Freund case
Prosecutors seek to terminate parental rights of couple charged in AJ Freund's death
Murdered Crystal Lake boy AJ Freund's parents in court Tuesday
Murdered boy AJ Freund's mom gives birth in custody
Andrew 'AJ' Freund's foster family releases statement: 'AJ was loved by us'
AJ Freund death: Parents of 5-year-old Crystal Lake boy appear in court Monday
Crystal Lake boy AJ Freund funeral arrangements announced; DCFS releases timeline, 2 workers reassigned

Two child deaths two years apart have DCFS back on hotseat
AJ Freund cause of death released, parents bond set at $5M each for Joann Cunningham, Andrew Freund, Sr.
How did Crystal Lake police crack the case of AJ Freund?
'He got a raw deal and God's going to fix it': Crystal Lake mourns AJ Freund after body found
Missing Crystal Lake boy AJ Freund's body found; parents Joann Cunningham, Andrew Freund Sr. charged
Missing Crystal Lake boy: 911 call reporting Andrew 'AJ' Freund, 5, missing, police history with family released
Missing Crystal Lake boy Andrew 'AJ' Freund: Father continues search, mother pleads for boy's, 5, return
Search continues for missing 5-year-old Crystal Lake boy, father vows own investigation
Crystal Lake community holds vigil for missing boy to "light the way for AJ"
Missing Crystal Lake boy Andrew 'AJ' Freund: Boy, 5, did not leave home on foot, police say
Crystal Lake boy missing: FBI joins search for 5-year-old Andrew 'AJ' Freund
Crystal Lake home of murdered boy demolished
Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.