A new lawsuit against the Cleveland Metropolitan School District among several other defendants claims they played a role in the wrongful death of 14-year-old Alianna DeFreeze two years ago.
According to WEWS, the girl’s parents, Damon DeFreeze and Donnesha Cooper, have named the school district, the city of Cleveland, E Prep and Village Prep Woodland Hills, Lynesha Richardson and Friends of Breakthrough Schools in the suit — along with the man behind bars for killing the seventh grader.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, convicted sex offender Christopher Whittaker was convicted last year and sentenced to death for murdering DeFreeze. He reportedly approached her at the bus stop and lured her to an abandoned home, where she was later found dead.
The parents’ attorney released a statement explaining why the suit was filed in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas this week.
“Unfortunately when these cases happen, you have to hold every single person accountable,” said Allen Boseman. “You can’t let anyone off the hook here, everyone played a role.”
Specifically, the parents allege that the the staff at E Prep did not inform them that she did not show up to school on the day of her disappearance despite a new program designed to deliver text messages with such information about students.
Cooper said she became concerned about her daughter at about 4 p.m. on January 26, 2017, and contacted school staff, who ultimately confirmed the unexcused absence.
Now the parents are claiming that the failure of administrators to notify them wasted time during which DeFreeze might have been rescued. Instead, reports show the girl was tortured and raped before she was brutally killed. In addition to the school, the suit claims the city was not properly monitoring the area where the victim’s body was found. More specifically, the parents are also suing the abandoned home’s owners for improper maintenance and monitoring.
DeFreeze’s death led to action at the state legislative level with the passage of Alianna’s Alert, which requires all schools to deliver a message to parents within two hours of learning a student is absent without excuse.
Though the suit seeks $15 million in punitive and compensatory damages, Boseman said it is not about the money.
He said the legal team does, however, “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.”
He also noted that people are “put on notice” when they are on the hook to pay damages.
“I think their attitudes change,” Boseman said. “You see real change. The law was great, but it was not something the school did. It’s not what the owner of the home did. It’s what a state senator pushed for.”
The girl’s father has already established a charitable foundation called “Make a Change,” which is in the process of funding a program to transport youth to events in a safe vehicle.
“The support of the community has been astounding,” said Damon DeFreeze.
[Featured image: Alianna DeFreeze, Facebook]