NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) - The search for a 5-year-old girl came to a tragic end late Monday morning. Family spoke with News 4's Lou Raguse Monday afternoon, after the body of Isabella Sarah Tennant was found in an alley.
The family tells News 4 that 16-year-old John Freeman confessed to the the little girl's murder. Freeman is a neighbor of Isabella's great grandparents, where she was staying the night she went missing.
"She loves everyone. She's so friendly. She has the biggest hear in the world. She's so energetic. Soon as she walks into a room, the room lights up," said Ashley Santangelo, the little girl's cousin.
In Memoriam | PHOTOS: Remembering Isabella "Bella" Sarah Tennant
The family describes Freeman as a "trusted neighbor" who did chores for the great grandparents and had known Bella since she was a baby.
Santangelo said, "Just a normal kid. Came by, helped the grandmother out with chores, like mowing the lawn and things like that. He would hang out, you know, kind of like a safe haven. Shouldn't of ended like this. Shouldn't have happened like this."
Isabella, known as "Bella" to her loved ones, was reported missing at 6:20 a.m. Monday, twenty minutes after family members realized she was missing when her mother came to pick Bella up. While officials searched the area Monday morning, police say 18-year-old Tyler Best came to the department around 9 a.m. with information that led them to the location of the victim.
Thomas Herrick, who dates a family member and lives in the home, said, "We saw her last night before we went to bed. Everything was fine as usual. He's always here. I would get up in the middle of the night and he would be sitting here playing on the computer and playing video games. He didn't seem like that kind of kid."
The girl's body was found fully clothed in a garbage can under bags of trash, in an alleyway between 3rd and 4th Streets in Niagara Falls. Authorities have not said if they suspect sexual abuse. Bella's body showed signs of trauma and police said they believed Freeman killed her with his bare hands. An autopsy will be conducted on Tuesday to determine her cause of death.
Niagara Falls Police Capt. William Thomson said, "In a garbage can, in a garbage bag, with another garbage bag on top. It's a terrible crime. It tears at your heart. I have grandchildren the same age as this victim, and it's a horrible thing."
Bella would have started kindergarten in just two weeks.
Family members tell News 4 Freeman confessed to the murder while being questioned by police. Freeman allegedly killed the girl and then enlisted the help of Best, a close friend of his, to move her body. The family says Freeman confessed after realizing Best was cooperating with police and Bella's body had been discovered.
Freeman is charged with second degree murder. Best has been charged with tampering with evidence. Both are being charged as adults.
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