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LOCKPORT – Tyler S. Best, the Buffalo man charged with helping a killer dispose of a 5-year-old girl’s body, said Friday he did it because he “felt threatened” by John R. Freeman Jr., who woke him up and demanded his assistance.

Best, 19, of Barnard Street, Buffalo, agreed to plead guilty to the charges in the indictment: first-degree hindering prosecution and tampering with physical evidence in the death of Isabella S. Tennant of Cheektowaga.

In exchange for the plea, Niagara County Judge Matthew J. Murphy III promised to sentence Best to no more than 16 months to four years in prison, instead of the seven-year legal maximum. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 27.

The girl was strangled last Aug. 26 in the home of her great-grandparents, Hank and Sharon Lascelle, on Sixth Street in Niagara Falls. The girl’s mother, Crystal Walker, had dropped Isabella off before going to her job in a Niagara Falls bar.

The Lascelles had gone to bed, leaving the girl in the care of Freeman, 17, of Sixth Street, a family friend.

Freeman pleaded guilty July 3 to second-degree murder and faces a term of 20 years to life in prison at his sentencing Sept. 5.

Under questioning by Murphy, Best said he had known Freeman for “seven or eight years. I lived in Buffalo, but when I went to the Falls, his house was the house I stayed at.”

Best said Freeman woke him and took him to a shed behind the Sixth Street house, where he saw Isabella lying on a mattress.

“Your Honor, she wasn’t moving, breathing or anything,” Best told the judge.

He attributed his decision to help dispose of the body to a lack of “rational thinking after being woken up. I felt threatened by Mr. Freeman.”

Best said Freeman had already prepared to dump the girl’s corpse.

“He held out a bag to me. We bagged her up and put her in a trash can,” Best said.

Police have said that was a wheeled garbage tote stolen from a nearby home and placed in an alley between Third and Fourth streets.

The next morning, Best told his family what happened. He was taken to Niagara Falls Police Headquarters by his uncle, Al Parker of Lewiston.

Best told officers what had happened and led them to the girl’s body. He’s been in jail ever since, and that time counts toward his sentence.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com