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Gathering, memorial walk planned in Crystal Lake to honor AJ Freund's birthday

A makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, candles and well wishes sits April 22 near the sidewalk in front of the Freund residence on Dole Avenue in Crystal Lake.
A makeshift memorial of stuffed animals, candles and well wishes sits April 22 near the sidewalk in front of the Freund residence on Dole Avenue in Crystal Lake.

A group will gather Sunday at Depot Park in Crystal Lake in observance of the late AJ Freund’s sixth birthday.

Members of the Facebook group ROAR for AJ have invited the public to unite at noon for a peaceful walk and celebration, according to the group’s Facebook event description. The afternoon will begin with a moment of silence at 12:15 p.m., followed by a 3-mile walk on the city’s sidewalks, expected to begin at 12:20 p.m.

The walking route will pass the Crystal Lake Police Department and the home where AJ lived at 94 Dole Ave.

The group will return to the park about 1:20 p.m. to “honor, remember and celebrate” the young boy’s birthday.

AJ was born Oct. 14, 2013, with opiates in his system, according to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The agency removed AJ from his parents’ custody Oct. 16, 2013, and a judge returned the boy to his mother in June 2015, DCFS records show.

AJ’s parents, Andrew Freund Sr. and JoAnn Cunningham, were charged April 24 with first-degree murder and several other crimes in connection with their son’s death.

Freund falsely reported AJ missing the morning of April 18, launching an extensive police and community search for the young boy, police have said. Days later, AJ’s body was found wrapped in plastic and buried in a wooded area in Woodstock.

Anyone planning to attend Sunday’s walk and celebration can make and bring signs to carry. Participants are encouraged to wear blue and make a donation to the Child Advocacy Center of McHenry County. A wish list of donation items is available online at www.mchenrycac.org/wish-list.

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