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Best gets short prison term for helping killer dispose of girl’s body

LOCKPORT – The man who helped a killer dispose of a 5-year-old Cheektowaga girl’s body and then told police all about it won’t be in jail for much longer.

Tyler S. Best, 19, who has served 13 months in Niagara County Jail since telling Niagara Falls police about the death of Isabella M. Tennant, was sentenced Friday to 16 months to four years in state prison, but Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III granted him youthful offender status.

Because of the time he has already served – nine months of which was in solitary confinement, defense attorney James J. Faso Jr. said – parole is likely within three months if not sooner.

“He might go up there and come home right away,” Faso said.

The girl’s killer, John R. Freeman Jr., 17, of Sixth Street, Niagara Falls, was sentenced Sept. 5 to 22 years to life in prison for strangling the girl while he was baby-sitting her on Aug. 26, 2012.

He then awakened Best, a friend who was sleeping in Freeman’s home, told Best what had happened and got him to help dispose of the body.

The body was placed in a garbage bag and left in a stolen garbage tote in an alley between Third and Fourth streets.

The next morning, Best, of Barnard Street, Buffalo, went to Niagara Falls Police Headquarters and told them the whole story, leading them to the body and fingering Freeman as the killer.

Best was charged with first-degree hindering prosecution and tampering with physical evidence for his role in disposal of the girl’s body.

He pleaded guilty as charged Aug. 2, in exchange for a sentencing commitment from Murphy of no more than 16 months to four years behind bars.

Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann opposed youthful offender status and decried what she sees as a tendency to portray Best as a “hero.”

Although Best told police that he helped Freeman decide not to dump the girl’s body in the Niagara River Gorge, Hoffmann said that wasn’t because Best wanted to make it easier to find the girl.

She quoted Best as explaining, “The reason we didn’t go to the gorge was there were too many cars, too many cameras. It would have been impossible to do it without being seen.”

Hoffmann said Best has “crafted” a revised story with himself doing the right thing.

“There’s no question he’s not a hero. He’s a criminal,” the prosecutor said.

Best said it was hard to explain his actions after being awakened and shown Isabella’s body. “It’s like an overload on the brain,” he said.

Best, who had been dating the dead girl’s cousin, apologized to the family.

Hoffmann said, “The family sees him no differently than John Freeman.”

Murphy saw it otherwise. He said youthful offender status was justified because of Best’s “blameless” record before this crime and the overall situation.

“They don’t give us judges crystal balls, but I tend to agree with Mr. Faso. You’re not likely to commit crimes in the future.”

The girl’s mother, Crystal Walker, who has since moved to Florida, left Isabella with her daughter’s great-grandparents, Hank and Sharon Lascelle of Sixth Street, while Walker headed to her job at a Niagara Falls sports bar.

The Lascelles went to bed and left the girl with Freeman, a family friend. He told police he choked Isabella to death because she wouldn’t go to sleep.

Deputy District Attorney Holly E. Sloma said at Freeman’s sentencing that the girl’s last words to Freeman were, “It’s your turn to color.”