LOCKPORT – Once his accomplice told police what happened, it didn’t take long for John R. Freeman Jr. to confess to killing a 5-year-old girl, a Niagara Falls detective testified Monday.
Detective Daniel Dobrasz Jr. said Freeman’s admission of involvement in the death of Isabella S. Tennant came “within five minutes of Miranda [rights] being read.”
Dobrasz’s testimony came in a daylong pretrial hearing in Niagara County Court, where defense attorney Robert Viola sought to suppress the confession by Freeman in the Aug. 26 strangulation of the Cheektowaga girl. Isabella’s mother had left her with the child’s great-grandparents, Sharon and Henry Lascelle, of Sixth Street, Niagara Falls.
Freeman, 17, who lives down the street, was a frequent guest and baby sitter at the Lascelle home.
Tyler S. Best, 18, of Barnard Street, Buffalo, a frequent guest at the Freeman home, went to Niagara Falls Police Headquarters on the morning of Aug. 27 to report that Freeman had enlisted him to help steal a wheeled garbage tote and dump the girl’s body inside. He led police to the alley where the tote had been left.
Freeman is charged with murder and Best with a felony count of tampering with physical evidence.
Detective Lorrie Alvarez testified that Freeman’s father, John Sr., freely allowed police to search his house and a vacant building in the backyard, looking for the girl on the morning of Aug. 27.
When officers asked the younger Freeman to come with them to Police Headquarters to talk about what they then regarded as a missing-person case, he did so, and his father made no objection.
Lt. Robert Rosati said Freeman Jr. told him he left the Lascelle home at 11:58 p.m. on the night of Aug. 26. He knew the exact time, Freeman said, because he always left at that hour to go to the Seneca Niagara Casino, where his father is a steward, and walk him home.
Freeman Sr. at first told police that was what they had done that night, but he testified that he later remembered that his son didn’t come to the casino that night, and he found the teenager already home after he walked home alone.
The elder Freeman said he, his son and Best then went to a 7-Eleven store that night for a late snack, but Deputy District Attorney Doreen M. Hoffmann declared that store surveillance video doesn’t show them there at all. “So you were mistaken about what happened seven hours before,” Hoffmann said to Freeman Sr.
The elder Freeman said that he walked to Police Headquarters and asked to see his son but that police wouldn’t let him. He saw Best and his family come in, “and they rushed them right past me,” Freeman Sr. testified.
“He said Bella had been hurt and John had been involved in it,” the father said.
Hoffmann said what Best really told him was that the girl had been killed.
Viola had the younger Freeman tested two weeks ago by a neuropsychologist, whose data should be ready by next week, as he plans a possible mental health defense.
County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III said he will issue a ruling on the admissibility of the confession by April 4, and he wants a written report on the psychological testing by that date, too. Viola said that it should be ready.