The boy’s mother, Joan, was sentenced for beating her 5-year-old son to death before burying him in a shallow grave and reporting him missing. According to prosecutors, the boy, only identified as AJ, died alone in the dark two weeks later, his head prominently marked by the outline of the shower head Joan beat him with as he stood under the freezing shower. He was supposedly being punished for soiling himself. Pleading for mercy, Joan told the judge: “I had the privilege of having AJ as my son. I loved him, I miss him.”

Her words were a stark contrast to the prosecutor’s evidence, which showed the unimaginable physical and emotional abuse AJ endured for years until, brain swelling and choking on his own blood, he died. In court, prosecutors played a tape where the boy could be heard telling his mother that he hoped “really bad people” did bad things to her. “Why do you want those bad people to hurt me?” Joan asked, prompting her son to answer, “So I don’t ever see you again.” “She had beaten this little boy to the edge of death… locked in his room (where) he had to endure the bleak process of death all by himself,” State’s Attorney Kennealy told the court.

The discovery of the boy’s body began after his parents reported him missing. An intensive search of the woods near his home turned up nothing, and investigators became suspicious after his parents stopped cooperating. The boy’s mom and dad, Andrew, were arrested and charged with first-degree murder in their son’s death. Prosecutors presented statements from neighbors who reported seeing cuts and bruises on AJ for years before his death.

A video showed the boy lying naked on a mattress covered in bruises and bandages, with a woman believed to be Joan berating him for wetting his bed. The boy’s dad was confronted with the video, and that’s when he led investigators to where they’d buried AJ in a shallow grave, his body wrapped in plastic. The autopsy revealed that he’d been struck multiple times and died from blunt force trauma. The boy’s father also told the court that Joan was the one who beat AJ, and claimed that he’s the one who suggested making him take cold showers instead. The night he died, AJ was put in the shower after Joan found the soiled underwear he’d tried to hide. The boy’s dad also admitted to putting the boy’s body in a plastic container and storing it in the basement. A shopping list including duct tape, plastic gloves, air freshener, and bleach, was included in a photograph in the search warrant. Joan was sentenced to 35 years in prison. AJ’s dad was sentenced to 30 years in prison.