A Chicago mother who was convicted for murdering her 5-year-old son is challenging her plea on Friday, April 1, claiming that she was "possessed" by demons during the ordeal and that she killed her son after she thought he was possessed too.

JoAnn Cunningham, a 39-year-old mother who received a 35-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to the murder of her 5-year-old son AJ Freund, has challenged the plea she originally entered, saying that she did not have adequate counsel during her first trial, according to NBC Chicago.

Cunningham was arrested in 2019 for murdering her son AJ, whom she forced to stand in a cold shower for twenty minutes before hitting him with a showerhead and forcing him to bed in his cold, wet, and naked state. She then wrapped his body with plastic and buried him in a shallow grave where he was later found dead, the New York Daily News reported.

She now claims that she was possessed by "demons" during the time and that she also thought her son AJ had a demon inside of him when she murdered the child. She reportedly called a priest, a chaplain, and the child’s father, Andrew Freund, to perform an exorcism on the toddler as she coped with postpartum syndrome psychosis during this time.

Freund was the one who told authorities about the dead child and who led police officers to the body. He was arrested and sentenced to 30 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter and concealment of a homicidal death, ABC 7 reported.

Because of her arrest and conviction, Cunningham’s children, which include a daughter that she gave birth to while in custody, as well as another son who is two years younger than AJ, were put in foster care by authorities.

McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt, who presided over Cunningham’s case and sentenced her, will be looking into the petition to see if it has any merit. If he does find merit, Cunningham will be assigned a new attorney as she goes through a new trial with more adequate legal representation.

Chicago mother JoAnn Cunningham has submitted a petition for a retrial of her case, claiming that she believed her 5-year-old son was possessed by a demon when she murdered him in 2019. This is a representational image. Sayan Ghosh/Unsplash.

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