Cleveland police have charged a registered sex offender in connection with the murder of Alianna DeFreeze a week after she went missing from a bus stop on the city's East Side.
Christopher Whitaker is charged with first-degree aggravated murder in the death of DeFreeze, 14, who was reported missing Jan. 26 after she failed to attend school at E. Prep.
Whitaker, 44, of South Euclid, was arrested Thursday about 7 p.m. at his home in Mayfield Heights at the Villa Serena Apartments, Chief Calvin Williams said during a late-night press conference. The U.S. Marshals assisted in the arrest of Whitaker.
Evidence from the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's Office played a major role in arresting Whitaker, police said.
DeFreeze was last seen just before 7 a.m. exiting a Regional Transit Authority bus at E. 93rd Street and Kinsman Avenue. Her body was found Sunday night in a vacant house in the 9400 block of Fuller Avenue by officers during as a large crowd searched for the teenager. DeFreeze was identified by dental records by the medical examiner's office Wednesday.
Williams, who was flanked by several other local and federal law enforcement officials during Thursday's press conference, said police are still in need of the community's help in knowing where Whitaker has been the past week, who he's spoken with and if he's been spotted with Defreeze before.
Whitaker, a native of Fayetteville, Tenn., has a lengthy criminal record minor traffic and theft charges dating back to at least 1998.
According to Cuyahoga County court documents, Whitaker kicked open the front door of his sister's apartment and stole a television set. The TV was valued at $500.00. Whitaker was identified by his sister and two nephews.
But Whitaker's most serious crime was in 2005 when he was convicted of sexual battery and felonious assault against a woman in her Bedford Heights apartment.
According to police reports, on April 8, 2005, Whitaker called to ask the woman to use her bathroom. The woman was a mutual friend of one of Whitaker's.
While Whitaker was using the restroom, the woman asked "What was taking so long?", according to a Bedford Heights police report. Whitaker responded "What do you think?" and appeared from the restroom with a pair of scissors in his hand and began to choke the woman as she sat at a kitchen table.
The woman told Whitaker "Don't do this to me" just before she passed out. She later awoke on the floor in a back bedroom with neck pain and with her pants and underwear removed, according to the police report.
An evaluation determined she was sexually assaulted and suffered two stab wounds, according to Cuyahoga County court records.
Whitaker was sentenced to four years for third-degree felony sexual battery and second-degree felonious assault. He is a registered sex offender. Whitaker was released from jail in 2009.
Whitaker was registered with the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Dept. at an address in South Euclid. Family members at that address told News 5 that he had not lived there for years and was using it as a "mailing address."
But the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Dept. said records show that Whitaker was in compliance. He successful passed six verifications at that address since 2009. The last was completed on May 9, 2015.
Whitaker is currently being held in the Cleveland jail. He is scheduled to be arraigned Saturday at 8:30 a.m.