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Christopher Whitaker sentenced to death for killing 14-year-old Alianna DeFreeze

Posted at 11:20 AM, Mar 26, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-26 18:30:16-04

Fourteen-year-old Alianna DeFreeze's killer was sentenced to death on Monday morning in a Cuyahoga County court.

Christopher Whitaker, 45, was found guilty of aggravated murder in February. He was also convicted on charges of rape, kidnapping, aggravated burglary, tampering with evidence and offenses against a human corpse.

A death sentence was not the outcome Alianna's family wanted, they said.

"We preferred life without the possibility of parole, but we respect the judge’s decision," said father Damon DeFreeze. "It’s not over, it will never be over."

Alianna's mother Donnesha Cooper gave a powerful victim impact statement following the death sentence.

"I appreciate the jury for making their judgment and recommendation, but death is too good for him," Cooper said, sobbing. "And I won’t believe he has any remorse until he suffers like my daughter suffered. His apology means nothing to me."

Alianna was reported missing on Jan. 26 of 2017. She was last seen getting off an RTA bus she rode to school every day.

Her disappearance ignited a city-wide search and city officials held a press conference to announce a reward for any information regarding her whereabouts. Just hours after the press conference, authorities confirmed the worst.

A Cleveland police officer who had been searching through abandoned homes near the 9400 block of Fuller Avenue came across a body that matched Alianna's description. 

RELATED: Cleveland Abandoned, our year-long investigation into Cleveland blight

According to the medical examiner's office, the girl was beaten and stabbed to death. A positive identification had to be made from dental records.

Police arrested Whitaker in early February of 2017.

Whitaker has a previous criminal record. In 2005, he was convicted of felonious assault and sexual battery after he attacked a woman who was a mutual friend when he stopped at her apartment in Bedford Heights to use the bathroom. While at the apartment, Whitaker stabbed the woman with scissors, choked her until she passed out and sexually assaulted her, according to court records.

He was sentenced to four years in prison and registered as a sex offender. Whitaker was released in 2009.

Alianna's family has started a nonprofit foundation in her name, with the hope that no other family ever has to feel their pain. The Alianna DeFreeze Let's Make a Change Foundation aims to address the issue of abandoned homes and safe routes to school.