Niagara Gazette

August 3, 2013

Best pleads guilty in Tennant murder case

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT -- A Buffalo teen, accused of helping to dispose of the body of a murdered 5-year-old girl in Niagara Falls, pleaded guilty to a pair of charges in Niagara County Court Friday afternoon.

In a short proceeding, Tyler Best, 19, admitted that he helped his friend, John Freeman Jr., get rid of the body of Isabella Tennant by hiding it in a garbage tote. 

In return for his plea to charges of first-degree hindering prosecution and tampering with physical evidence, Niagara County Court Judge Matthew J. Murphy III told Best he would sentence him to no more than 16 months to four years in prison.

Best could have faced a maximum prison term of seven years for his conviction.

Neither prosecutors nor Best’s defense attorney could speak to reporters after the hearing because of a court imposed gag order in the case. 

Freeman, 17, has also pleaded guilty in the case. On July 3, he entered his plea to a charge of second-degree murder.  

He faces a minimum of between 20 and 22 years behind bars and a maximum of life in prison when he is sentenced.

Police and prosecutors always maintained 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. Investigators said Best led them to Tennant’s body after he showed up at police headquarters, appearing shaken and remorseful, on the morning of Aug. 26.

Detectives said they might never have found Tennant’s body without Best’s cooperation in the case.

Best came to Falls police headquarters several hours after officers 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, who was 16 at the time, 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 made statements to Falls Police detectives both before and after the discovery of Tennant’s body. Although those statements have been sealed by a court order, some of what is contained in them was revealed when Murphy ruled they were admissible in a possible trial for Freeman.

Confronted by Det. Daniel Drobrasz, Freeman said he had killed Tennant.

“I guess I’m a little bit crazy,” Freeman said after confessing his crime. “I just admitted to a killing. I’m going down and it could be for life.”

Dobrasz then asked Freeman, “What did Tyler (Best) do?”

“Nothing,” Freeman replied.