WATCH: Illinois mom sentenced to 35 years in prison for murder of 5-year-old son found buried near house

A judge has sentenced JoAnn Cunningham to 35 years in prison for the first-degree murder of her son, AJ Freund

Cunningham gave a tearful statement during the first day of her sentencing hearing in the murder of her son, AJ Freund, and said that she is a “child of God” and asked forgiveness.

“I love him and I miss him and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to bring him back,” Cunningham told the court.


Fox News reports an Illinois mom sentenced to 35 years in prison for murder of 5-year-old son found buried near house

“She lapsed back into living in what can only be described as drug-addled filth — lying, cheating and manipulating her way through life while terrorizing her small son,” he said. “While her addictions do not justify her appalling behavior towards her own son, they perhaps do help explain why she engaged in … the inhumane, repulsive and frankly shocking course of conduct that ended her child’s young life.”

“Miss Cunningham was responsible for that life and must now be responsible for his death,” he added.

Family members expressed disappointment with the sentence, according to a statement released by their attorney.

“AJ was an innocent, precious little boy whose life was taken from him after he endured, what we now know, was much pain and suffering,” the statement said. “We had expected JoAnn would pay for that by spending her natural life in prison.”

The child endured years of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his mother, prosecutors said. When he was born, tests revealed he and Cunningham both had opiates in their systems, prompting the state to take the baby into custody. He was returned 20 months later.

Child welfare workers visited the family’s home over the years but found no reason to remove him.

A police officer who went to the family’s home after AJ was reported missing described the stench of the garbage-strewn house.

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