‘If I could go back to that day’: Convicted killer apologizes to family of Alianna DeFreeze

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The registered sex offender convicted of raping and killing 14-year-old Alianna DeFreeze read a short statement in court Thursday, apologizing to the family and community.

The sentencing phase is still continuing for Christopher Whitaker,  45, who was previously found guilty of aggravated murder and charges including kidnapping and rape in DeFreeze’s death. Her body was found in an abandoned home in Cleveland in January 2017, three days after her mother reported her missing when she didn’t arrive at school.

"From the beginning, I've accepted full responsibility for my actions," he read. "I assisted detectives as to where to find my clothes and the boots I was wearing that day. I never wanted this to happen, and ever since that day I feel regret and remorse."

He said he's "admitted my guilt" to detectives and his lawyer, and asked his lawyer not to contest or challenge any of the charges because "I really wanted the DeFreeze family to have closure."

"I never wanted this to happen," he said. "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...If I could go back to that day in January, I'd change everything. But I can't, so I have to live each day with the shame, hurt and guilt."

Authorities say Alianna was beaten and stabbed and the South Euclid man’s DNA matched evidence.

Whitaker told investigators he was high on cocaine and blacked out.

Jurors will now determine whether to recommend the death penalty in the penalty phase.

Continuing coverage here.