CLEVELAND, Ohio -- For the first time, the mother of 14-year-old Alianna DeFreeze is speaking out about her daughter, the crime that outraged Northeast Ohio, and a push for change to protect children.
Donnesha Cooper sat down exclusively with the FOX 8 I TEAM.
She said, "I don't understand how anyone can take away a sweet innocent child like Alianna." She spoke with us holding her daughter’s favorite stuffed animal, Lucky. Cooper thought back to the last time she saw her daughter rushing to catch a bus.
Cooper said, "She ran back and gave me a hug and kiss so…I was grateful for that moment ‘cause I almost missed it. That was the last time I'd see her."
Convicted sex offender Christopher Whitaker is facing the death penalty. Police say he kidnapped and murdered Alianna on her way to school on Cleveland’s southeast side. Cooper said, "I'm going to go to every pre-trial, every trial, everything, so he sees my face." She added, "I hate to say this but, I want him to suffer, you know, the way he made my daughter suffer. But I still don't think he deserves to live for taking my daughter away from me."
Alianna had to take RTA buses to get to school. Her mom and grandmother didn't like it. But they felt a little better knowing one stop was in front of Cleveland’s 4th district police station.
And yet, Alianna found in an abandoned home just two blocks from that police station.
Her grandmother, Yvonne Day, said, "We’d text. And she always let me know what bus she was on.”
Now Alianna’s mom and grandmother are calling for more school buses so that kids don’t have to take city buses. They’re also backing a push to require schools to notify parents right away if a child is absent. Alianna’s mom didn’t find out her child never made it to school for hours. Donnesha Cooper also wants to see more city police to protect the streets.
She said, "It's not safe. It's not safe. It hasn't been safe for a while, and that needs to change."
Nothing will bring back Alianna, but her case could lead to change. Her mother added, "She really wanted to help people. And I think she'd be proud of the things that are being put into place to help other people so that no one else has to suffer."
Meantime, on top of dealing with all of this, Alianna’s mother also told us she ended up in a homeless shelter shortly after the crime. She says her landlord had stopped paying for running water. She’s temporarily staying with relatives, and a church group is putting together a drive to collect funds and help Cooper out. She also has a two-year-old son.