Niagara Gazette — LOCKPORT — From his bench in a Niagara County courtroom on Friday, Judge Matthew J. Murphy III said he faced a challenge in sentencing Tyler Best.
The Buffalo teen, who pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence and hindering prosecution in the murder of Isabella Tennant, was facing a fate of anywhere from probation to state prison time.
"The murder of Isabella Tennant shocked the community with its senselessness," Murphy said. "But the question for the court is how do we make the punishment fit the crime."
The judge acknowledged that Best's role in the crime was far different from that of the confessed killer, John Freeman. Best, who was Freeman's friend, admitted to helping to dispose of Tennant's body.
Yet he also helped police to crack the case, by leading them to a garbage can in the 500 block alley of Third Street, where Tennant's body was stashed in a trash bag. Prosecutors argued Murphy should not consider Best a "hero" for telling cops where her body was.
"It seems he's been glorified as a hero and that is so inaccurate," First Assistant District Attorney Doreen Hoffmann said. "(Best) helped (Freeman) bag her. He's not a hero, he's a criminal. He didn't make one bad decision, he made a series of bad decisions."
Hoffmann argued Best had "a lot of opportunities" to tell police or others what had happened to Tennant and to "walk away" from helping Freeman dispose of her body.
"We seem to be overlooking all the wrong things he did," she said.
But Best's defense attorney, James Faso, argued that his client was "shocked" and "panicked" when his friend took him to the dead body of the little girl. He also said when Freeman fell asleep, after getting rid of the little girl's body, Best, who was 18 at the time, contacted his mother and went to police to tell them what had happened."