Recognizing and Addressing Child Abuse: A Heartbreaking Tale

In a tragic turn of events, a young boy named Andrew AJ Freund lost his life just months after reaching out for help. Today, his parents face murder charges, shedding light on the horrors he endured. This chilling story serves as a reminder of the importance of recognizing and addressing child abuse.

An Anonymous Tip Raises Concerns

Back in December, an anonymous tip alerted authorities in Illinois to Andrew’s distressing situation. Concerned for his well-being, the police visited Andrew’s home. During their visit, they noticed a severe bruise on the five-year-old’s hip. When questioned, Andrew initially attributed the injury to the family dog.

A Chilling Revelation

Doubts lingered in the attending doctor’s mind. While attempting to gather more information from the young boy at the emergency room, the doctor pressed further. And then came a chilling revelation that shattered any notion that the dog was responsible. Andrew disclosed to the doctor, “Maybe someone hit me with a belt. Maybe Mommy didn’t mean to hurt me.”

Frustrating Challenges

The doctor promptly reported the incident to the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). However, due to conflicting explanations and a lack of concrete evidence, the exact cause of the injury remained undetermined. The case was closed a month later, leaving Andrew’s safety uncertain.

Tragic Outcome and Heartbreaking Discovery

Four months after bravely sharing his truth, Andrew was found dead. His lifeless body was discovered wrapped in plastic and buried in a shallow grave. Now, his parents, Andrew Freund Sr., 60, and JoAnn Cunningham, 36, face murder charges in connection with the death of their own son.

Failed Interventions

DCFS had been in contact with Andrew and his family multiple times. Between June 2015 and March 2016, agents visited the family home 17 times to check on Andrew’s welfare. However, no evidence of abuse was found during these visits, leaving everything seemingly in order.

A Troubled Upbringing

DCFS received another hotline call from an anonymous source raising concerns about Andrew’s neglect. Interestingly, this call came on the same day Andrew’s parents reported him missing. Following a police investigation, the parents ultimately revealed the location of Andrew’s shallow grave. It was an unimaginable tragedy.

Disturbing Pasts

It is essential to note that DCFS had previously intervened in Cunningham’s life in 2012 due to allegations of prescription drug abuse and neglect of her foster child. Although these incidents occurred before Andrew’s birth, they offer a glimpse into his troubled upbringing, characterized by “environmental neglect and injurious environment” for Cunningham’s eldest son.

Battling Injustices

From the moment Andrew entered this world, he faced an uphill battle. Both Cunningham and Andrew tested positive for opiates and benzodiazepines at his birth, leading to his separation from his birth parents for eight months before being reunited with them.

Seeking Justice

The question that lingers is what kind of punishment should be brought upon these parents responsible for the life-altering tragedy they inflicted upon their own child? It is a somber reminder that recognizing and addressing child abuse is not just our collective responsibility but a crucial step in preventing such heartbreaking outcomes.