Niagara Gazette

Local News

December 28, 2012

TOP 10: Slaying of 5-year-old shakes community

Niagara Gazette — It was a crime that left folks in the Falls shocked and heart-broken.

The grisly discovery of 5-year-old Isabella Tennant’s body in a trash bag, buried in a garbage can in the 500 block alley of Third Street. It left even veteran Falls cops shaken.

“It’s a terrible crime. It tears at your heart,” Detective Capt. William Thomson said at the time. “I have grandchildren that are the age of the victim.”

It didn’t take police long to identify and charge a suspect. Less than 24 hours after Tennant was reported missing from her great-grandmother’s home, detectives arrested a then 16-year-old family friend in connection with Isabella’s murder.

John Freeman Jr., was charged with second-degree murder. Freeman’s close friend, Tyler Best, 18, was charged, as a co-defendant, with tampering with physical evidence.

It was 6:20 a.m. on Aug. 26, when the tragedy began unfolding. Falls patrol officers were called to a home in the 400 block of Sixth Street for a report of a missing 5-year-old. 

The child’s great grandmother told police the little girl had disappeared overnight. Freeman was the last person to be seen with Isabella.

Members of Isabella’s family told investigators that Freeman was a “close” and “trusted” family friend and that it was not uncommon for him to be in the great grandmother’s home and around the little girl without supervision.

Detectives quickly found Freeman and began questioning him about Isabella’s disappearance. At the same time, patrol officers began an intensive and frantic search for the child.

Officers flooded though the city’s South End and even brought in a search dog from the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office. Three hours after the search began, investigators got a huge, but sad break in the case.

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