Niagara Gazette

March 8, 2013

Best seeks separate trial in Tennant case

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — A Buffalo teen, accused of helping his friend dispose of the body of a murdered 5-year-old, is asking to have his trial separated from his co-defendant.

The lawyer for Tyler Best filed a motion for “severance” on Thursday, but said a ruling on statements made by the accused killer to police should probably be made first.

“This motion may be somewhat premature,” defense attorney James Faso told Niagara County Court Judge Matthew J. Murphy III during a brief hearing. 

Faso suggested the matter of separate trials should be considered after Murphy rules on whether statements John Freeman Jr. made to Falls police detectives will be admitted at an upcoming trial. 

Prosecutors had no comment in court on Faso’s request. Faso was unable to explain his request because of a gag order that bars lawyers in the case from speaking to reporters on any matters other than scheduling.

Murphy is expected to rule on the admissability of Freeman’s statements by April 4. The judge scheduled a hearing on Faso’s severance request for April 5.

Best, 18, is charged with tampering with physical evidence and hindering prosecution in the murder of Isabella Tennant. His best friend, Freeman, is charged with second-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence.

Police and prosecutors have said they believe that Freeman was the killer of the little girl and that Best’s only role in the incident was to help dispose of the body in a garbage tote. Investigators have said that Best led them to Tennant’s body after he showed up at police headquarters, appearing shaken and remorseful, on the morning of Aug. 26.

Murphy has already ruled that a 33-minute videotaped interview between Best and Falls police detectives, as well as a written confession and a DNA sample he gave them, can be used at his trial.

Best came to police headquarters several hours after Falls police had begun a desperate hunt for Tennant. The little girl had been reported missing from her great-grandmother’s home, in the 400 block of Sixth Street.

The great-grandmother said the little girl had disappeared overnight and had last been seen with Freeman. Freeman, then 16 and now 17, was described as a “close family friend.”

Not long after Best spoke with detectives, police made the grisly discovery of Tennant’s body. She was found dead in a trash bag, buried in a garbage can in the 500 block alley of Third Street.

Freeman, in several statements to police, that have been sealed by a court order, reportedly offered several explanations for what had happened to Isabella. After being told that Best had led investigator’s to Tennant’s body, Freeman reportedly confessed to the murder.

In an appearance in Niagara County Court in late December, Freeman’s defense attorney filed paperwork that would allow him to present an insanity defense in the case.