CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Dozens gathered Wednesday to remember a young woman, whose life was taken too soon.
But they say some of 14-year-old Alianna DeFreeze's memory will live on in a garden that they created for her.
Right outside of the school doors, students planted a garden with purple flowers, Alianna's favorite color.
"That will be part of this community and show that we'll never forget," said John McBride, Superintendent.
"Makes me feel blessed and appreciated that they loved her. Those that didn't even know Ali love her and it's a blessing," said father, Damon Freeze.
Alianna was kidnapped, raped and murdered by 45-year-old Christopher Whitaker, a registered sex offender.
Police say, in Jan. 2017, Whitaker followed Alianna and snatched her as she waited for an RTA bus to school. He then took her to an abandoned home where he tortured her before killing her.
Alianna's body was found days later in an abandoned home on Fuller Avenue.
A jury convicted Whitaker on all ten counts and a judge sentenced him to death in March.
Alianna would be graduating from 8th grade with her classmates this year.
Her friends say they wanted to help ease her family's pain so they planted the garden and decorated her locker here at school. Bright and full of the purple colors she loved, they say it's all about Alianna.
"I feel like she would love this. I feel like it describes her," said friend Janiya.
"As much as it hurts, this is what she would've like and she would've totally been a part of something like this for somebody else and it's just so perfect. It just screams Alianna and I know she would love it," said mother, Donnesha Cooper.
Democratic Sen. Sandra Williams of Cleveland introduced Ohio Senate Bill 82 in response to the murder of Alianna DeFreeze. Alianna's family didn't even know she wasn't in class until later that day.
Also known as the "Alianna Alert," the bill passed the Ohio Senate floor with a 33-0 vote.
It would require schools to make at least one attempt to call parents within two hours of the start of school if a child is absent and parents have not already notified the schools of an absence.
Now the bill moves to the House for a committee hearing and floor vote.
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.
E-Prep will award Alianna a diploma at graduation this coming Friday. Her parents will accept it in her memory.