LOCKPORT – The time needed for a defense expert to conduct a psychiatric examination of murder defendant John R. Freeman Jr. will force a postponement of the Feb. 25 trial stemming from the death of 5-year-old Isabella S. Tennant of Cheektowaga.

Defense attorney Robert Viola told Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III Thursday that Dr. Louise Feretti, a Williamsville neuropsychologist chosen by the defense, will interview Freeman Feb. 11-13. The time needed to compile a report forced a delay in the trial.

Feb. 25 is now the date for a hearing on the admissibility’s of Freeman’s statements to police. The new trial date will be chosen then. Viola is planning a possible mental health defense for Freeman, 17, of Sixth Street, Niagara Falls.

He is accused of strangling the girl while babysitting her Aug. 26 in the Niagara Falls home of the victim’s great-grandparents. He then called a friend, Tyler S. Best, 18, of Barnard Street, Buffalo. Best went to police the next day and led them to the girl’s body, which he said he and Freeman had dumped in a stolen garbage tote and left in an alley. Best is charged with evidence tampering.