JoAnn Cunningham, the mother of 5-year-old Andrew 'AJ' Freund, the young Crystal Lake boy whose disappearance sparked a massive manhunt before his body was found in a shallow grave in a far northwest Chicago suburb, has been transferred to a downstate prison, records show.
Cunningham, who was sentenced last month to 35 years behind bars in her son's murder, had been in northwest Illinois since her arrest.
Illinois Department of Corrections records showed Thursday the Crystal Lake mother is now serving time at the Logan Correctional Center in Lincoln, Illinois.
Cunningham faced a maximum of 60 years in prison for the 2019 crime that shocked her northwest suburban community.
The case started when Cunningham and Aj's father, Andrew Freund Sr., reported their son missing in northwest suburban Crystal Lake in April 2019.
On April 24, 2019 police recovered AJ's body wrapped in plastic and buried in a remote location in Woodstock, just miles from the home where the couple reported the boy missing the week before.
That same day, Cunningham and Freund Sr. were arrested and charged.
Authorities said Freund Sr., 60, led police to AJ's body after detectives confronted him with a video made on Cunningham’s cellphone dated March 4, 2019. The video, which was played in court during Cunningham's sentencing, showed the boy with bruises on his body while a woman believed to be Cunningham berated the child for urinating on the bed.
During Cunningham's sentencing hearing, a medical examiner testified that AJ suffered broken ribs and severe swelling of his brain prior to his death. Prosecutors also presented testimony of previous incidents of abuse.
"I’ve had the privilege of having AJ as a son and when I had him those were the happiest days of my life. I loved him, I miss him and there's nothing that I wouldn't do to bring him back," Cunningham said in a tearful speech at her sentencing hearing. "My children are the greatest gift God has ever given me. They are my whole world. The reason they are the reason I breathe. Anyone who truly knows me can say how much I love being a mother, more than anything in the world. Being a mother defines me."
She went on to say she would "give my life to have AJ back."
"This is something I will never escape from and am impacted forever by my horrendous choices," she said. "I cannot change the decisions of my past. I ask you to help me put the million scattered pieces of my heart back together. I need love not more pain."
In handing down her 35-year sentence, the judge noted that, as part of a deal, Cunningham pleaded guilty to only one of the 20 counts she originally faced. That charge included the accusation that she beat her son knowing that her actions could, and did, cause his death.