Niagara Gazette

Local News

April 4, 2013

Teen's admission that he killed Isabella Tennant can be used at trial

Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — After two hours of denials to detectives, John Freeman Jr. confessed to killing 5-year-old Isabella Tennant after finding out that his close friend Tyler Best had led police to her body.

Now, Niagara County Court Judge Matthew J. Murphy III has ruled that prosecutors can use both Freeman's videotaped and written confessions at his upcoming murder trial. Freeman, now 17, faces charges of second-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence in the slaying of Tennant. 

Best, 20, has been charged with hindering prosecution and tampering with physical evidence. Both Freeman and Best have pleaded not guilty to those charges.

In a lengthy decision, delivered from the bench, Murphy said Freeman was first questioned by police after Tennant was reported missing from her great-grand mother's home in the 400 block of Sixth Street. She was reported missing about 6:20 a.m. on Aug. 27.

Freeman was described by members of Tennant's family as a “close” and “trusted” friend and was the last person known to have been with Isabella before she disappeared. They also said that it was not uncommon for him to be in the great grandmother’s home and be around Isabella without supervision.

"It seems to the court to be good police work to interview anyone who could provide information about a missing child," Murphy said. 

Detectives first spoke to Freeman at his Sixth Street home, in the presence of his father. Then, with his father's permission, they took him to police headquarters to continue questioning him.

For two hours, Freeman denied knowing what had happened to Tennant and even told investigators that his friend, Best, might have information about her because he had seen the little girl before she disappeared.

Murphy said the "tenor" of the police questioning of Freeman changed when Best showed up and told police what he knew. Investigators have said Best arrived at police headquarters and told them he had information about Tennant's disappearance. 

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