By Kathy Wray Coleman, editor-in-chief
CLEVELAND URBAN NEWS.COM-CLEVELAND, Ohio-Ohio 11th Congressional District Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge, a Warrensville Heights Democrat whose largely Black congressional district includes the city of Cleveland and several of its eastern suburbs, on Friday released a statement to Cleveland Urban News.Com on the tragic murder of 14-year-old Alianna DeFreeze of Cleveland.
"I send my sincere condolences to the family of Alianna DeFreeze," said Fudge, who is Black. "The loss of a child is extremely difficult, especially when details surrounding her death are so uncertain."
The Black girl, whose body was discovered Sunday evening by police in a vacant home at the the 9400 block of Fullmer Avenue on the city's majority Black east side, was last seen at the 3400 block of East 149th Street last Thursday morning as she was getting off the RTA bus headed to school.
The teen never arrived at school last Thursday, and her family, notified some 10 hours later, subsequently filed a missing person's report.
Her body was identified by the Cuyahoga County medical examiner's office through dental records.
Christopher Whitaker of South Euclid, Ohio, a convicted sex offender who served time in prison for sexual battery, among other convictions, has been charged with aggravated murder, among other crimes, and was arraigned Saturday morning and held on a $3 million bond.
Police say that DNA links Whitaker to the crime, but cannot put him with the girl at any point to date, other than allegedly through DNA evidence.
Her family says she did not know him.
And though Whitaker has pleaded not guilty, Cleveland police Chief Calvin Williams, who is Black, and the mainstream media, have publicly deemed him guilty, an ignorant effort, say sources, to minimize the unrest relative to the gruesome killing, and several other unsolved murders of Black females in Cleveland since 2012.
Some community members, led by longtime greater Cleveland activist Art McKoy, even held a vigil Saturday afternoon to compliment police for bringing Whitaker, who is Black, "to justice."
And this is though Whitaker was just arraigned on Saturday and, by no means, has been brought to justice.
Rep. Fudge, also a former Warrensville Heights mayor and a prior national president of the Black sorority Delta Sigma Theta Inc, is a licensed attorney, and it shows.
She said Friday, though indirectly, that people should not hastily jump to conclusions about Whitaker's innocence or guilt and that she prays for closure.
And while she did not name police specifically, the federal lawmaker did thank those working to solve the case.
She called for peace in the largely Black major American city where Black on Black crime has escalated in recent years, as has erroneous police murders of Black people, including 12-year-old Tamir Rice, Malissa Williams, Timothy Russell, Brandon Jones, Tanisha Anderson and rapper Kenneth Smith.
Cleveland recorded 168 homicides in 2016, the deadliest year in decades, and up 13 percent from 2015, though neighboring suburbs also saw increases, mainly due, like Cleveland, to heroin and opiate overdoses on the rise.
"As a community we must do all we can to work together for the safety and security of our children," said Fudge. "I thank those working to solve unanswered questions surrounding Alianna's death, and pray for peace, closure and healing."
Alianna is the fifth female found dead since 2012 on the city's east side near East 93rd and Kinsman Avenue that has caught the attention of the community and the media, some four women ranging in ages from 20 to 43-year-old, three Black and one White, whose remains were discovered in various places, at least one in abandoned home, within a two-mile radius beginning at East 93rd Street and Bessemer Avenue and transcending to Harvard Avenue.
Police have no leads relative to the murders of the four East 93rd Street women, namely Jasmine Trotter, 20, Ashley Leszyeski, 21 and White, Jamella Hasan, 37, and Christine Malone 43, who left behind eight grown children.
Local community activists and Cleveland Ward 2 Councilman Zack Reed say a possible serial killer is on the loose as to the unsolved cases of the aforementioned.
If so, it would bring the number of greater Cleveland serial killers in recent years to three, behind Anthony Sowell, who murdered 11 women and raped three other Black women at his since demolished home on Imperial Avenue on the city's east side, and East Cleveland serial killer Michael Madison, who murdered three Black women whose bodies were uncovered in the impoverished Black Cleveland suburb in 2013, four years after the remains of the Imperial Avenue women were pulled from Sowell's home by police.
At a well-attended rally for DeFreeze in Cleveland Wednesday Imperial Women Coalition leader Kathy Wray Coleman, who led the rally in front of the abandoned home where DeFreeze's body was found with activist Khalid Samad of Peace in the Hood, said too many Black women and children are getting murdered in Cleveland and that White women and children who are murdered or raped get far more attention than poor Black women and children, especially from the mainstream media.
Coleman also called for city officials to fully implement the 27 recommendations derived by a three-member mayor appointed committee in conjunction with the Imperial Avenue Murders.
An aunt of DeFreeze spoke at the rally, and said her family is "broken."
Other speakers include east side Cleveland Councilpersons Phyllis Cleveland, Zack Reed, and Jeff Johnson, a candidate for mayor this year who hopes to unseat current three-term Mayor Frank Jackson, Angelique Malone, the daughter of Cleveland East 93rd Street murder victim Christine Malone, and Dannita Carmichael, the daughter of Tonia Carmichael, 52 and one of serial killer Sowell's 11 Black murder victims.
Carmichael lambasted Mayor Jackson and members of Cleveland city council, namely Zack Reed and Ken Johnson, who leads the ward where Sowell did his massacre, saying nothing has changed since her mother was murdered and that police are acting like business as usual, a speech laced with expletives.
Community members supported Carmichael, and said after wards that they understand her pain and are glad that "Black women have become more empowered to speak out on Black women getting murdered in Cleveland and very little being done about it."
As she spoke to the media on Wednesday at the rally, Carmichael stood with family members of several of Sowell's other victims, including victim Janice Webb's sister, Joanne Moore, also an outspoken critic of Cleveland police, who arrested Sowell in 2008 on a rape complaint to police but released him to later kill the last six of his 11 victims.
Sowell, now 57, was arrested again in 2009 following another police report of rape.
This time police, who ignored missing persons reports filed by some of the Imperial Avenue families, took the complaint seriously.
The serial killer, who was convicted by a county jury of his peers in 2011, lost an appeal of his convictions and death sentence last year at the Ohio Supreme Court level and is now seeking relief via federal appeals venues.
While some lawsuits filed by the Imperial Avenue families remain pending in federal district court, others have been dismissed by judges like Federal District Judge Donald Nugent, a former county common pleas judge, and a Democrat who has political ties that some say sometimes influence his judicial decisions, some of them reversed on appeal to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
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