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AJ Freund death: Judge rejects challenge to JoAnn Cunningham’s conviction, sentence in Crystal Lake boy’s murder

WOODSTOCK, Ill. — A suburban Chicago woman who pleaded guilty in the death of her 5-year-old son cannot challenge her conviction and 35-year sentence, a judge ruled Wednesday.

The video featured is from a previous report.

JoAnn Cunningham, 39, of Crystal Lake, claimed in her March petition for post-conviction relief that she suffered from postpartum depression and psychosis when she killed her son. Cunningham claimed she “saw demons and heard voices” at the time of her son AJ’s death.

Authorities say Cunningham killed AJ on April 15, 2019, after she became angry over soiled underwear he tried to hide. She forced the boy to stand in a cold shower for at least 20 minutes, hit him on the head with the showerhead, then put him to bed cold, wet and naked, authorities said.

AJ’s body was found wrapped in plastic in a shallow grave near the family home in Crystal Lake.

RELATED: How Did Crystal Lake Police Solve AJ Freund’s Case?

McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt presided over his plea bargain on December 5, 2019 and sentencing on July 16, 2020. Andrew Freund, AJ’s father, also pleaded guilty to his death and is serving a 30-year sentence from prison.

Wilbrandt wrote in his decision that Cunningham’s arguments in his motion “do not provide ‘the gist’ of a meritorious claim of substantial deprivation of a federal or state constitutional right and are manifestly without merit.”

Cunningham argued that no witnesses were called to testify on his behalf; she was not allowed to testify herself, nor did she provide a confession; she didn’t read her Miranda rights; and she was “illiterate” about her constitutional rights, the Northwest Herald reported.

Wilbrandt wrote in his ruling that witnesses were called on his behalf and defense attorneys presented “extensive evidence” of his history of drug abuse and drug treatment. She also provided a lengthy statement about her “long history of prescription and illegal drug use,” the judge wrote.

Wilbrandt also dismissed as “baseless” Cunningham’s claim that his 35-year prison sentence was “cruel and unusual punishment”.

Cunningham filed the handwritten motion from jail without the assistance of a lawyer.

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