CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - After the jury selection process lasted nearly two weeks, opening statements commenced Thursday morning in the murder trial for 14-year-old Alianna DeFreeze.
Opening statements lasted approximately 20 minutes before the court adjourned for recess.
The trial also began Thursday with Alianna's mother, Donesha Cooper, taking the stand.
"She wasn't the typical teenager," Cooper said. "She still played with baby dolls."
Christopher Whitaker, 44, faces multiple counts of aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape, burglary, tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse in connection with the 7th-grader's death.
Police say, in Jan. 2017, Whitaker followed Alianna and snatched her up as she waited for an RTA bus to school near the intersection of East 93rd Street and Kinsman Avenue. He then took her to an abandoned home where she was raped and brutally murdered.
Alianna's body was found four days later in the abandoned home on Fuller Avenue.
"Homicide detectives were able to recover evidence at the crime scene that matches Alianna's DNA, evidence at the crime scene that matches the defendant, and finally, evidence from Alianna's body herself that matches the defendant," said Andrew Santolli from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office.
"We're not contesting that he's taking responsibility for the awful things that you saw at opening statements, the awful things that you saw in the jury booth, and unfortunately, for the awful things that you're about to see over the next few days." says Whitaker's attorney Tom Shaughnessy.
Despite Whitaker's admission, Shaughnessy requests that the jury listens to Whitaker's entire defense.
Whitaker's trial in front of Cuyahoga County Judge Carolyn Friedland started just days before Alianna's friends and families marked one year since the day of her death with a purple balloon release in Cleveland.
The DeFreeze family has started The Alianna DeFreeze Let's Make A Change Foundation to better protect children and provide transportation to kids who face challenges getting to school.
Additionally, Senate Bill 82, or the "Alianna Alert," is making it's way the Ohio legislature. The Bill would require schools to call parents within 120 minutes at the start of the school day if their child has been marked absent.
Senator Sandra Williams who co-sponsored the bill said a sub-bill was accepted yesterday by the Senate Education committee. Now the committee has to review the bill and it is up to the Chairwoman on when there will be a vote or another hearing.
Whitaker is a convicted sex offender who served almost four years in prison in the past. If convicted of Alianna's murder, Whitaker could face the death penalty.