NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) - A Niagara County grand jury has indicted two Niagara Falls teens in connection with the murder of 5-year-old Isabella Tennant.
John Freeman is charged with second degree murder and tampering with evidence. Tyler Best is also charged with tampering with evidence plus hindering the prosecution in the first degree. At their arraignment Monday, they both pleaded not guilty.
With his youthful face and high-pitched voice, 16-year-old Freeman might not look or sound like a killer. But he will spend his 17th birthday in jail this week, indicted on charges he murdered little Bella Tennant with his bare hands.
Prosecutors say Freeman was the last person left alone with the 5-year-old girl in August. And at some point, late at night or early in the morning, he allegedly killed her by some means of suffocation. They say Tyler Best helped him move the body to a nearby alleyway, throwing Bella into the trash.
At their arraignment, Freeman walked in with his eyes lowered, not even glancing at his family or the family of Isabella Tennant, both of whom were in the courtroom. And there wasn't a lot of visible emotion in the courtroom this time. It was a very procedural hearing. The judge asked the suspects if they understand their rights and how some of the legal process will work.
Now that the suspects have been arraigned, the prosecution and defense will begin working toward trial, although no trial date has been set.
At the last court hearing, Freeman's lawyer Robert Viola told News 4 his client is very emotionally distraught about the death of Bella and the charges against him. But we won't be hearing much more until trial because Monday the judge issued a gag order, banning the attorneys from talking to the media. Judge Matthew Murphy also sealed the statements both suspects made to police, so we won't be able to share those until they are released in court. Judge Murphy decided to keep the suspects behind bars without bail.
None of the family members wanted to talk with News 4 on camera after the hearing. But one of Bella Tennant's aunts told News 4 she wanted to thank everyone in the community for all the generosity, the donations, the benefits and the well wishes following Bella's death.
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