(Reuters) – The body of a 5-year-old boy who was reported missing from his Illinois home last week was discovered buried in a shallow grave on Wednesday and his parents were arrested on murder charges, local police said.
The remains of Andrew “AJ” Freund, wrapped in plastic, were found in a community near his home town of Crystal Lake, based on information provided to investigators by his mother and father, Crystal Lake Deputy Police Chief Tom Kotlowski said in a statement.
“To AJ’s family, it is our hope that you may have some solace in knowing that AJ is no longer suffering and his killers have been brought to justice,” Kotlowski said in the statement. “To AJ, we know you are at peace playing in heaven’s playground and are happy you no longer have to suffer,” he said.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this week that police had been concerned at least since September about living conditions in the home where AJ Freund lived with his parents and younger brother.
The paper said that according to police reports the home was cluttered, dirty and in disrepair, with broken windows and the overwhelming smell of feces.
“Our priority is the care and safety of Andrew’s younger sibling. We will continue to cooperate with law enforcement in their ongoing investigation,” Marc Smith, acting director of the state Department of Child and Family Services, said in a written statement.
“The Department is committed to conducting a comprehensive review of the entirety of our work with Andrew’s family to understand our shortcomings and to be fully transparent with the public on any steps we are taking to address the issues,” Smith said.
The boy’s father, Andrew Freund, reported him missing on Thursday morning, prompting an exhaustive search by local police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation in and around Crystal Lake, about 45 miles (72 km) northwest of Chicago.
Police said they would conduct an autopsy on the body, which was found in a remote area of Woodstock, Illinois, about 20 miles (32 km) northwest of Crystal Lake along a major highway. No cause of death was immediately released.
Television images showed forensic investigators working in a field in Woodstock, shielded by a white canopy.
Both parents, Andrew Freund and Joann Cunningham, were arrested on suspicion of first degree murder, aggravated battery and failure to report a dead child. They were expected to make an initial court appearance in the coming days.
An attorney for Cunningham could not be reached by Reuters for comment on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear if Andrew Freund had retained an attorney.
Reporting by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Sandra Maler and Alistair Bell