CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. — A northern Illinois judge on Tuesday ruled that media must not publish or broadcast images of autopsy photographs of 5-year-old AJ Freund during the sentencing hearing of his mother, who has pleaded guilty in his murder.
McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt agreed with the prosecutor's objection to letting the five photographs or videos to be photographed or shown on television as part of the coverage of JoAnn Cunningham's sentencing that starts Thursday.
Cunningham pleaded guilty in December to murder in the beating death of her son, who was killed last April and buried in a shallow grave near the family’s Crystal Lake home. She faces up to 60 years in prison.
The boy’s father, Andrew Freund Sr., was also charged with first-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty and is being held on $5 million bond in McHenry County Jail. He is scheduled to appear in court for a status hearing on July 30.
An autopsy revealed that AJ died from multiple blunt force injuries to his head.
The (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald said Wilbrandt will hear motions before deciding whether journalists can use other images that show bruises on the boy’s body.
It wasn’t immediately clear which images the judge was referring to, but video of AJ, battered and bruised, that was found on Cunningham’s cellphone was key in the investigation.
Freund initially reported his son missing, prompting a massive search of the area. He later led detectives to the boy’s grave after they confronted him with the video on Cunningham’s cellphone. A woman, believed to be Cunningham, can be heard berating the child for urinating in bed.