Sentencing phase begins today for man convicted in murder, rape of Alianna DeFreeze

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The sentencing phase begins Wednesday for the registered sex offender convicted of raping and killing a 14-year-old Cleveland girl.

Jurors previously found 45-year-old Christopher Whitaker guilty of aggravated murder and charges including kidnapping and rape in Alianna 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.

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. His attorney has said Whitaker is remorseful and doesn’t contest the charges. His attorney didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

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

Continuing coverage here.