Niagara Gazette

January 17, 2013

Judge must rule on whether statements to police can be used at Isabella Tennant trial

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — When Tyler Best arrived at Falls police headquarters just before 10 a.m. on Aug. 26, he appeared shaken and remorseful.

Those were the observations of city cops who saw and spoke to him before he confessed his role in the murder of Isabella Tennant. 

On Wednesday, prosecutors sought to convince Niagara County Court Judge Matthew J. Murphy III to allow them to use a 33-minute videotaped interview between Best and Falls detectives, as well as a written confession and a DNA sample he gave, if the Buffalo teenager decides to go trial on a charges of tampering with physical evidence and hindering prosecution in the Tennant homicide.

Best came to police headquarters several hours after Falls police had begun a desperate hunt for Tennant. The 5-year-old 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 a close family friend, 16-year-old John Freeman Jr.

Though what Best told investigators had happened to Tennant was not revealed during the hearing, police witnesses did testify that he appeared "remorseful" when he was brought to headquarters by his mother and his uncle. Best was reportedly a close friend of Freeman's and had been living with him and his family at their Sixth Street home.

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 a statement to police that has been sealed by a court order, reportedly offered several explanations for what had happened to Isabella. In his statements to police,  Best reportedly confessed to having helped his friend dispose of the little girl’s body.

At the time, police credited Best for coming forward and talking to them.

“It would have been very difficult to solve this without (Best’s) help,” Detective Capt. William Thomson said. “I imagine his conscience was bothering him.”

Investigators have said that, based on the statements made to them by Freeman and Best, they believe Isabella was killed in her great grandmother’s home and that her body was then taken to the trash can. Detectives say they believe Freeman was the killer and Best only helped to dispose of the body.

In October, a Niagara County grand jury indicted both Freeman and Best. Freeman, who was 16 at the time of the crime and has now turned 17, was charged with second-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence.

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.