Woman who killed her 5-year-old son gets 35-year prison term

State News

FILE – in this July 16, 2020 file photo, JoAnn Cunningham, cries and wipes her nose during her sentencing hearing in Woodstock, Ill. On Friday, June 17, 2020 Cunningham was sentenced to 35 years in prison for beating her five-year-old son to death in April of 2019. (John Starks/Daily Herald via AP Pool File)

WOODSTOCK, Ill. (AP) — A northern Illinois woman who subjected her young son to years of physical and emotional abuse culminating in his beating death last year was on Friday sentenced to 35 years in prison.

JoAnn Cunningham pleaded guilty in December to killing her son, Andrew “AJ” Freund. Eight months earlier, police uncovered the boy’s battered body, wrapped in plastic and concealed in a shallow grave near the family’s home in Crystal Lake.

Cunningham faced between 20 to 60 years in prison. She pleaded for mercy from the judge on Thursday, portraying herself as a loving mother who misses her son. Prosecutors had asked the judge to impose the maximum 60-year sentence so the 37-year-old mother would die in state prison.

Prosecutors, though, presented evidence that Cunningham physically and emotionally abused AJ for years before the beating that killed him. A police officer who went to the family’s home after AJ was reported missing described the stench of the garbage-strewn house, where state child welfare officers had been frequent visitors.

McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally said AJ died alone, padlocked inside his bedroom as his brain swelled and his own blood choked him.

AJ’s father, 61-year-old Andrew Freund Sr., has been charged with first-degree murder. He pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

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