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Lawsuits & Litigation

Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Others Named as Defendants in New Wrongful Death Suit

— January 30, 2019

The parents of Alianna DeFreeze are suing Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), E Prep and Village Prep Woodland Hills, the City of Cleveland, her killer Christopher Whittaker, Lynesha Richardson, and Friends of Breakthrough Schools for their share of responsibility in their daughter’s abduction, torture, rape, and murder.

Back on January 26, 2017, Alianna DeFreeze, 14, was lured away from her bus stop by a man who was a convicted sex offender. Tragically, she was later “found dead inside an abandoned home.” As a result, her parents have decided to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the “Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), E Prep and Village Prep Woodland Hills, the City of Cleveland, her killer Christopher Whittaker, Lynesha Richardson, and Friends of Breakthrough Schools.

The suit was filed in Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas by Alianna’s parents, Damon DeFreeze and Donnesha Cooper and their three attorneys, John Burke, Bradley Sherman, and Allen Boseman. When commenting on the case, Boseman said, “Unfortunately when these cases happen, you have to hold every single person accountable. You can’t let anyone off the hook and here, everyone played a role.”

Image of Lady Justice and Legal Books
Lady Justice and Legal Books; image courtesy of jessica45 via Pixabay,

Prior to the fatal incident, DeFreeze was a seventh-grade student at E Prep. During her time as a student, “CMSD created a system where school administrators at E Prep would send an automated message notification to parents to alert them about news involving their children, including any unexcused absences,” the suit alleges.

The day of the incident, DeFreeze was on her way to school on an RTA bus. According to the suit, “when she exited the bus,” she was followed by Christopher Whittaker, a convicted sex offender who has since been convicted of murdering the young girl and sentenced to death in March 2018.

Unfortunately, DeFreeze never arrived at her school, though the suit claims her school was aware of her “unexcused absence but never notified Cooper about it, despite having her contact information.” Later in the day around 4 p.m., Cooper “became extremely concerned after her daughter never made it home.” She called the school to see if it knew her daughter’s whereabouts, and it was then that “she was told her daughter never arrived at school and was absent the entire day.”

The suit argues that if the school would have informed her parents immediately when it noticed her absence, they may have been able to locate DeFreeze “before she was tortured, raped, and killed.”

In addition to blaming the school, the suit alleges that the City of Cleveland and city employees “breached their duties by failing to monitor and prevent illicit activities in abandoned properties, including the one on Fuller Avenue where DeFreeze was murdered.” Additionally, the owner of the house where the child was murdered, Lavontay McKenzie, is named in the suit for “failing to maintain, operate and monitor the house.”

Ultimately, the suit argues that the actions of the defendants “directly contributed to DeFreeze’s rape, torture, and ultimate death.” As a result, Alianna’s parents are seeking “$15 million in compensatory and punitive damages.” Boseman said, “While it’s not about the money, we want the family to feel like Alianna left something for them, left some type of legacy so they can take this money and use it for good.”


Parents of Alianna DeFreeze file wrongful death lawsuit against CMSD, City of Cleveland

Family of Alianna DeFreeze files lawsuit against CMSD, city of Cleveland and her killer

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