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Father of slain Cheektowaga girl sues her great-grandparents

The father of a 5-year-old Cheektowaga girl who was strangled to death in Niagara Falls two years ago filed suit this week against the girl’s great-grandparents.

The father’s suit accuses Henry C. Lascelle, now 81, and his wife Sharon R. Lascelle, now 67, of negligence in going to bed and leaving the girl to be watched by the teenager who killed Isabella M. Tennant.

Michael C. Tennant’s suit in State Supreme Court in Niagara County does not name a damage amount being sought. Thomas M. Mercure, attorney for Tennant, did not return a call seeking comment on the lawsuit.

Sharon Lascelle said she and her husband hadn’t been served with any legal papers yet and declined to comment.

The girl’s killer, John R. Freeman Jr., who was 16 at the time, was a trusted friend of the Lascelles and spent considerable time in their home on Sixth Street in Niagara Falls, police said.

Isabella’s mother, Crystal Walker, left the girl with the Lascelles on the night of Aug. 26, 2012, on her way to her job at a Niagara Falls sports bar. Walker has since moved to Florida.

After the Lascelles went to bed, Freeman told police, he choked Isabella to death with his hands 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.”

Freeman, who pleaded guilty in 2013 to second-degree murder, is serving a sentence of 22 years to life in Green Haven Correctional Facility.

The father’s lawsuit accuses the Lascelles of “negligently supervising” Freeman and creating a dangerous condition by leaving Isabella alone with him.

After he killed Isabella, Freeman awakened a friend, Tyler S. Best of Buffalo, and told him what had happened. Best was sleeping in Freeman’s home, a short distance away on Sixth Street.

In the early hours of the morning, the two hid Isabella’s body in a garbage tote in a nearby alley between Third and Fourth streets. But Best went to police after the sun rose, told officers what happened and led them to the girl’s body.

He told police he talked Freeman out of dumping the girl’s body in the Niagara River Gorge. Best pleaded guilty to hindering prosecution and tampering with physical evidence. He was sentenced to 1 1/3 to four years in prison.

Freeman, Best and Walker are not named as parties to the lawsuit.