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Confession aired in killing of 5-year-old girl in Falls

LOCKPORT – John R. Freeman Jr. grasped the situation he was in last summer after his accomplice told Niagara Falls police that Freeman had killed a 5-year-old Cheektowaga girl.

“I’m going down, and it could be for life,” Freeman told Detective Daniel Dobrasz Jr. in a videotaped interview, highlights of which were read aloud Thursday in Niagara County Court.

Freeman, 17, of Sixth Street, Niagara Falls, is charged with second-degree murder in the strangulation of Isabella S. Tennant in her great-grandparents’ Sixth Street home on the night of Aug. 26. Freeman, a friend of the great-grandparents, had been baby-sitting the girl while her mother worked in a Niagara Falls bar.

The next morning, while police were questioning Freeman as a possible source of information in what was then considered a missing child case, Tyler S. Best, 18, of Barnard Street, Buffalo, went to Police Headquarters to report that he had helped Freeman stuff the girl’s body into a stolen garbage tote that they left in an alley.

The information from Best, who is charged with tampering with physical evidence, turned the tone of the detectives’ interview with Freeman from a search for information to an accusatory situation, County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III said as he ruled that all of Freeman’s statements to police would be admissible at his trial.

Murphy said the video shows Dobrasz reading Freeman his rights, and Freeman agreed to answer questions without asking for a lawyer.

“I guess so, because I already heard Tyler Best snitched,” Freeman told Dobrasz. “Tyler Best confessed that we murdered Bella. … Let me ask you one question: Did he say I did it?”

“You knew what happened. You weren’t being honest,” Dobrasz said, according to Murphy. “Your [back] is in a sling.”

“I already heard he said I did it, so I did it,” Freeman answered.

Moments later, according to the judge, Freeman said, “I guess I’m a little bit crazy. I just admitted to a killing. That’s a little bit crazy.”

Defense attorney Robert Viola is considering a psychiatric defense for Freeman. He said a doctor has examined the defendant and should have a report ready in three weeks.

The doctor also will consider records on Freeman’s behavior from as far back as elementary school, obtained through a subpoena that Murphy signed.

In the wake of the expected psychiatric report, the prosecution will be allowed to have Freeman examined by a doctor of its choice. The situation will be updated at a pretrial conference set for May 2.