CLEVELAND, Ohio -- "Our investigators didn't stop. The culmination of their efforts is the arrest of a person who we need to make sure never touches our streets again," Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said as he announced an arrest in the murder of 14-year-old Alianna Defreeze.
Christopher Whitaker, 44, was arrested for the kidnapping and aggravated murder of the teenager. He was taken into custody at 7:15 Thursday night on Mayfield Road in Mayfield Heights by members of the Cleveland Division of Police and the United States Marshals Service.
According to Cleveland police, Whitaker was identified as the suspect in this case through evidence discovered by the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office Northeast Ohio Regional Forensic Laboratory. The FOX 8 I-Team reported DNA helped identify the suspect.
Police say Whitaker does have prior criminal convictions. He is listed on the county's registry of sex offenders.
Alianna Defreeze was last seen on Thursday, January 26 at around 6:30 am boarding an RTA bus to go to school.
Her mother called police after learning Alianna was not in class.
On Sunday, officers conducted sweeps in the area in hopes of finding the missing girl. Instead, they located a body in an abandoned house on Fuller Avenue. The remains were later identified as Defreeze.
The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner determined Defreeze died of multiple injuries. The manner of death was ruled a homicide.
Chief Williams stressed authorities are still in the early stages of their investigation. Police still need information on the suspect and his whereabouts over the past week. People are asked to call investigators at 216-623-5464 or Crime Stoppers at 216-252-7463. You can also text "TP657" plus your message to 274637. Tips can remain anonymous.
Earlier this week, the FBI, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office and Crime Stoppers announced they were offering a $22,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the person responsible for the girl's death.