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Illinois man seeks bench trial in young son’s beating death

February 27, 2020 GMT

CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. (AP) — A suburban Chicago man charged in the beating death of his 5-year-old son asked Thursday for a judge, not a jury, to decide his fate when he stands trial.

Andrew Freund Sr. made the request during a brief hearing in McHenry County court, the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald reported.

“Is this what you want to do?” Judge Robert Wilbrandt asked Freund after his lawyer, Henry Sudgen, said Freund was waving his right to a jury trial. “Yes,” Freund replied.

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Freund and Andrew “AJ” Freund Jr.’s mother, Joann Cunningham, were charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of the boy, whose body was found last April in a shallow grave near the family’s Crystal Lake home.

According to police, the parents killed the boy, wrapped his body in plastic, buried it and then reported him missing. Video of the bruised boy that was found on Cunningham’s cellphone prompted Andrew Freund Sr. to lead investigators to where they had buried him.

Cunningham pleaded guilty to murder in December and on Thursday, the judge ordered that she return to court on April 30 for sentencing.

According to the (Arlington Heights) Daily Herald, Sugden explained that a jury trial would have been held outside the county because of the widespread publicity the case has generated. He said the issues of the case are legal, not factual, but he didn’t elaborate.

“The issue in this case is not for a jury,” he said. “The issue is for a judge.”