Christopher Whitaker, the man convicted of killing 14-year-old Alianna DeFreeze, addressed the court and the girl's family on Thursday during the penalty phase of his trial.
Whitaker, 45, was found guilty earlier this month on charges in connection with the abduction, rape and murder of Defreeze in early 2017.
Speaking to the court, Whitaker addressed the court for the first time, expressing remorse and regret for his actions.
"From the beginning, I have accepted full responsibly for my actions," Whitaker said. "I assisted the detective as to where to find my clothes and boots I was wearing that day. I never wanted this to happen and every since that day, I've felt regret and remorse."
"Through the year, I've made a lot of phone calls and in those phone calls, I've said a lot about things in order to protect my family's feelings. I've admitted to my guilt to the detectives and to my lawyers. I asked my lawyers not to contest or challenge anything in this case because I really wanted the DeFreeze family to have closure," Whitaker said.
Although he confessed to the brutal killing of Alianna, Whitaker claimed he was high on crack cocaine at the time of the incident.
Alianna was abducted while on her way to school on Jan. 26, 2017. Her body was found in an abandoned home. Whitaker was found guilty on all counts, including murder, rape, kidnapping, aggravated burglary, tampering with evidence and offenses against a human corpse.
"I will not try to hide behind drugs or alcohol. I will not pretend or lie because it wouldn't be fair to the family. I apologize to the family and the community for my actions," Whitaker said. "There is no excuse for what I have done. I can't imagine the pain the family feels, but I know the pain I felt when looking at what I had done."
Whitaker continued to say, "If I could go back to that day in January, I would change everything. But I can't, so I have to live each day with the shame, hurt and guilt. And although the trial is over, the regret and painful memories will remain with me. There are some things I can't just shake. I pray the family finds peace and she can find rest and my apologies.
Prison experts and medical experts took the stand during his sentencing trial. Whitaker became emotional in court when his sister took the stand and talked about how close he was with his mom who died when he was 8.
Mary McDonnell, an independent social worker that examined Whitaker’s childhood by interviewing friends, family and Whitaker himself, spoke in court on Wednesday.
McDonnell said mitigating circumstances certainly exist in Whitaker’s case, pointing to the loss of his mother.
“I can’t tell you how important it is,” McDonnell testified. “Although we don’t often think about it, losing everything that you have that is similar and that you know is significant. He lost his friends, and literally overnight his world was turned upside down.”
McDonnell also told the jury that Whitaker witnessed domestic violence inside the home upon moving to Cleveland. The boyfriend of Whitaker’s sister would often beat her in the presence of the children, McDonnell said, citing interviews with family members.
“Witnessing domestic violence and the resulting trauma of that is something that is so powerful… in social work, psychology and psychiatry have huge bodies of research on it,” McDonnell said. “This is something that affected kids in ways that have profound consequences, not just on them, but for our society.”
Whitaker appearing to get emotional as his sister tells the jury about their mom, family life. His sister says he was very close to his mother before she died when he was 8. #WhitakerTrial @WEWS pic.twitter.com/ltTTa2tMff
— Jordan Vandenberge (@NEWSjordanv) February 22, 2018