A cousin of the Crystal Lake man charged with killing his 5-year-old son and hiding the body said Wednesday that Andrew Freund Sr. is not the person she grew up with, and that he had isolated himself from his relatives, some of whom lived nearby and would have wanted to help their family.
Outside the northwest suburban home where prosecutors allege Freund Sr. and the boy's mother Joann Cunningham beat Andrew "AJ" Freund to death, Donna Kopsell identified herself as the first cousin of Freund Sr. but said she hadn't seen him in years.
"The last there was a family reunion was in like 2006, but I ran into Drew at the Jewel-Osco and he was with Joann and she was pregnant with AJ and that’s probably the last time I ran into him," Kopsell said.
Freund Sr. and Cunningham were both charged with five counts of first-degree murder on Wednesday, as well as several other charges, including domestic battery and failure to report a missing or child death. Authorities dug up a body in a remote area of Woodstock on Wednesday believed to be that of AJ, who the parents reported missing six days earlier.
In separate hearings, a judge ordered Freund Sr. and Cunningham each held on $5 million bond. Criminal complaints against the two allege that they forced the boy to stand in a cold shower for an extended period of time and beat him to death three days before calling 911 to report him missing.
Freund Sr. "just kept to himself," Kopsell said, adding, "This isn’t the person I grew up with."
Kopsell said the Freund Sr. she knew was a "well-behaved, polite, young man that came from a very good family and probably never had a hand laid on him."
She said her cousin's mother was a nurse and teacher, and his father was an architect. While she never met AJ, Kopsell was stunned by the boy's resemblance to their family.
"I saw his picture and I thought, 'Oh my God, he looks like a Freund' and you know, like Drew did when he was younger," Kopsell said. "It was just, we’re just blown away."
Kopsell said she had her suspicions - but couldn't wrap her mind around the allegation that Freund Sr. had killed his son.
"I thought maybe something had happened to AJ, like accidentally and they were worried about maybe being charged with neglect and losing [their other son]," she said. "But when I heard the news conference today, I just... I just couldn’t believe it. Could not believe it."
She added that in talking to other members of their family, they all felt the same way - and that she had no plans of, or any interest in, reaching out to Freund Sr.
Some of their relatives lived in the same area, including herself and Freund Sr.'s brother, Kopsell said, but he chose not to see them.
"I mean, if I had any idea that the kids were like, hungry, I would have brought food or something," she said.
"[AJ is] with his grandma and that’s what kind of helps me, that his grandma is taking care of him because she did a good job with her boys," Kopsell added, voice cracking as she held back tears.