CLEVELAND - Jurors saw graphic pictures and heard disturbing testimony Wednesday morning about the fatal injuries suffered by 14-year-old Alianna DeFreeze.
Testimony by Cuyahoga County Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. David Dolinak, who performed an autopsy on DeFreeze, revealed her injuries were so numerous and severe that he could not identify which specifically caused her death.
Christopher Whitaker is on trial on charges of kidnapping, rape and aggravated murder in the January, 2017 slaying of DeFreeze. She went missing on her way to school on Cleveland's east side. Her body was found by police in a vacant house on Fuller Avenue three days later.
Dolinak testified that DeFreeze's wounds were consistent with tools found in the house, including a drill, screwdriver and box cutter.
Jeffrey Oblock, a DNA analyst with the Cuyahoga County Regional Forensics Laboratory, testified that DNA found on DeFreeze's body is a match for Whitaker.
"In the absence of an identical twin, Christopher Whitaker is the source of the major DNA component in this mixture to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty," Oblock said.
David Brewton, assistant pastor at Gogatha Missionary Baptist Church on East 93rd Street, testified that Whitaker helped him unload food pantry items from a truck at the church late in the morning on the day of DeFreeze's death. He described Whitaker's behavior as calm, and said Whitaker told him he was working odd jobs and frustrated that things weren't going right for him.
"He appeared to me in his demeanor like the average guy I meet in that neighborhood on a daily basis," Brewton said. Brewton identified Whitaker as the man previously shown on surveillance video encountering DeFreeze on the day of the murder.
Whitaker's attorneys said earlier in the trial that he has does not contest the charges against him. He faces the death penalty if convicted. Whitaker's attorneys have indicated that they will focus on sparing his life during the penalty phase of the trial.
A motion submitted by prosecutors this week states Whitaker’s attorneys provided a psychological report they plan to use during the death penalty phase of the trial, which states Whitaker was high on cocaine at the time of the crime, impairing his ability to control his impulses. In the report, Dr. Robert Kaplan said Whitaker is addicted to cocaine, alcohol and marijuana, and his memory of the crime was impaired, according to the motion.
Prosecutors are seeking to use their own psychological expert to rebut the testimony.