By Jeff Truesdell
January 31, 2019 03:50 PM

The parents of a 14-year-old Cleveland girl abducted on her way to school, then raped, tortured and murdered, allege the school is at fault for not alerting them about her absence, wasting hours that might have been used to search for her.

In a wrongful death lawsuit filed Friday and obtained by PEOPLE, the parents of Alianna DeFreeze say her school knew about the seventh grader's unexcused absence on January 26, 2017, but failed to properly use an automated messaging system in place to alert parents with news about their children.

The school system "utterly and without question breached a critical duty owed to each and every parent to provide notice of a missing child-no text messages, phone calls, emails or any other form of communication," the lawsuit alleges.

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"Defendants have tried to cover up their fatal inaction by claiming that they sent [Alianna's mother] a message … notifying her of Alianna's absence, but that the system malfunctioned. … Upon information and belief, defendants school system have lied about their action of sending a message," according to the lawsuit.

Alianna's killer, Christopher Whitaker, is in prison after being convicted and sentenced in March 2018 to die for his crimes.

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