CLEVELAND, Ohio - Prosecutors Monday showed surveillance video in court that they said shows the moment 14-year-old Alianna DeFreeze encountered 44-year-old Christopher Whitaker just before her murder.
Whitaker is on trial on charges including kidnapping, rape and aggravated murder for the January 2017 killing of DeFreeze, who disappeared on her way to school.
The video, recorded around 7 a.m. on January 26, 2017 at True Gospel Missionary Baptist Church on East 93rd at Fuller Avenue, showed Whitaker pacing along the street for several hours, according to testimony from investigators.
RTA surveillance footage showed a smiling and laughing DeFreeze exiting a bus. Surveillance video from a nearby business showed her then crossing East 93rd Street before being stopped outside the church by Whitaker, according to investigators. She can be seen taking a step back from the man, who then follows her northbound on the street.
A short time later, investigators said the video showed Whitaker leading DeFreeze through a field toward Fuller Avenue, where her body was found in a vacant house three days later.
Cleveland Police Officer Willie Hodges testified that he and his partner were assigned to check vacant houses in the area when they noticed the back door of the house was open.
He described entering the house and seeing a trail of blood leading from the living room toward a closed door. He said his partner kicked open the door, and they saw DeFreeze's body.
"Definitely looked like she was dragged from one room to the other and just thrown into the other room," he said, noting that she appeared to have head injuries.
Hodges said they also found DeFreeze's clothing and a backpack inside the house, along with bloody tools including a drill, box cutter and hammer.
Whitaker appeared to become emotional as a crime scene investigator and prosecutors showed the tools in court.
Whitaker's attorneys said he has confessed to the crime and does not contest the charges against him. He faces the death penalty if convicted.