Alianna DeFreeze was abducted as she walked to school then tortured, raped and killed in Cleveland in January 2017
The family of a Cleveland girl who was tortured, raped and murdered by a registered sex offender on her way to school in 2017 has received a $1 million legal settlement after filing a lawsuit against the school and city.
Damon DeFreeze and Donnesha Cooper filed the wrongful death suit in 2019 after their daughter, Alianna DeFreeze, was abducted on the way to school by 45-year-old Christopher Whitaker before being brutalized and killed.
The charter school waited 10 hours before informing the parents that Alianna never arrived in class on January 27, 2017. Her mutilated body was found three days later in an abandoned home.
A Cuyahoga County Probate Court approved the $1 million payout in the wrongful death suit, according to records obtained Thursday by local outlet Fox 8.
‘Despite the incredible odds faced by Plaintiffs’ counsel, they were able to convince the settling Defendants (who still assert that they have no legal responsibility for the death of Alianna) to resolve this matter for a total of $1million,’ Attorney Allen Boseman wrote in the Thursday filing.
‘This is a tremendous settlement based upon the facts and the current state of the law in the state of Ohio.’
Damon DeFreeze and Donnesha Cooper claimed they didn’t find out their daughter was absent from school until after the school day had finished
Whitaker was convicted for Alianna’s murder in 2018 and sentenced to death. Last October, the death row inmate appealed the sentence.
The family sued the City of Cleveland; the Cleveland Metropolitan School District; DeFreeze’s school, E Prep and Village Prep Woodland Hills; and Friends of Breakthrough Schools, along with Whitaker and the man who owned the abandoned home where she was killed.
Records show that each of Alianna’s parents, who are reportedly separated, will receive more than $245,000 from the judgment.
Alianna was abducted on January 27, 2017 as she walked towards her charter school on the city’s southeast side, after getting off a school bus around 6 am.
Whitaker, a registered sex offender in the state of Ohio, spotted the girl and lured her away from the rest of her classmates. According to her mom, Alianna suffered from a developmental disability.
Christopher Whitaker, 45, a registered sex offender in Ohio, followed the 14-year-old after she got off her school bus and snatched her from the street. He then took her to an abandoned house and raped her before stabbing her to death. He is now on death row
The teen’s body was found three days later in the abandoned home. Cops determined she had been tortured for hours, and then raped and killed.
In the filing, Cooper and DeFreeze said their daughter’s life could have been saved if they were told she was missing when she didn’t show up to class.
They went on to argue it was ‘completely’ out of character for the teenager to miss school and that the officials should have known as much when she did not show up without any notice from either parent.
The lawsuit further alleged the school ‘utterly and without question breached a critical duty owed to each and every parent to provide notice of a missing child – no text messages, phone calls, emails or any other form of communication,’ People magazine reported.
‘Defendants have tried to cover up their fatal inaction by claiming that they sent [Alianna’s mother] a message … notifying her of Alianna’s absence, but that the system malfunctioned,’ the lawsuit said.
Donnesha Cooper’s lawsuit argued that Aliana could have been found alive if school administrators had immediately alerted her that she didn’t show up to class
Damon DeFreeze had said that no amount of money will make up for the loss of his daughter
The CEO of Breakthrough Charter Schools, Alan Rosskamm, said Thursday that the school system agreed with the judgment, but denied legal responsibility for the teen’s death.
‘All of the parties reached a mutually agreed upon settlement agreement. We hope this can help bring some level of closure to all concerned. Although, our hearts will always go out to Alianna’s family and friends.’
The grieving dad had said that no amount of money will make up for the loss of his daughter.
Whitaker has appealed to have his death sentence overturned
‘You know, you don’t know when this will hit you,’ DeFreeze told WOIO-TV of Cleveland last year of the grief he and his family have experienced in the four years since their daughter was taken from them.
‘I drive, it hits me. I just cry for no reason. You know, when I was working, it hits ya at work. You know, it’s just, it’s a never-ending thing, but I’m still standing.’
He also hopes her deranged killer wins his appeal and rots in prison for the rest of his life.
‘I requested life in prison without the possibility of parole from the beginning because death is too certain, too quick,’ DeFreeze said.
‘You deserve to suffer and sit there and think about what you did.’
He also said there’s some comfort in knowing Whitaker won’t prey on anyone else’s child.
‘Either way, the animal, the monster [is] off the street,’ the father said.
Alianna was found dead inside this abandoned home three days after she was abducted