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‘AJ Was Loved’: Crystal Lake Boy’s Grandmother, Foster Family Release Statement After His Death

AJ's body was found last week and his parents were charged with murder among other counts

The grandmother and foster family of a 5-year-old Crystal Lake boy who was allegedly killed by his parents and buried in a shallow grave in a northwest Chicago suburb released a statement Tuesday saying they were "abruptly" cut out of the boy's life in the years before his death. 

"We, the family that lovingly cared for Andrew (AJ) during the first 18 months of his life and were then allowed to be in his life for another 26 months until the parents abruptly prevented us from having any further contact with him, want everyone to know that AJ was loved by us with all our hearts," the statement, released by a spokesperson and attorney for the family, read. "While we had him in our lives, he had a happy, fun-loving life. This smart little boy loved having books read to him, doing puzzles, his Thomas the Train, playing with his fire trucks, bulldozers, cement mixer and Ninja Turtles. He was very curious and always wanted to learn about everything."

AJ's body was found last week and JoAnn Cunningham and Andrew Freund Sr. were charged with murder among other counts. They have since agreed to let the state's child welfare agency care for their younger son.

The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services said AJ was placed into a foster home in November 2013, one month after he was born with opiates in his system. He returned home in June of 2015, according to agency records

Read the full statement from the family below:

We, the family that lovingly cared for Andrew (AJ) during the first 18 months of his life and were then allowed to be in his life for another 26 months until the parents abruptly prevented us from having any further contact with him, want everyone to know that AJ was loved by us with all our hearts. 

While we had him in our lives, he had a happy, fun-loving life. This smart little boy loved having books read to him, doing puzzles, his Thomas the Train, playing with his fire trucks, bulldozers, cement mixer and Ninja Turtles. He was very curious and always wanted to learn about everything. 

He was, and will always be, our loving and caring little boy. With his brave short life, AJ made the ultimate sacrifice to save his younger brother and unborn sibling. His life shall not be in vain. AJ will always be our little superhero. 

We want to thank the Crystal Lake Police and surrounding Police Departments, the FBI, all other first responders, and our community at large. We appreciate all of the kindness, prayers, love, and compassion shown by all.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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