Tonawanda News

Local News

January 25, 2013

Insanity defense moves ahead

Tonawanda News — LOCKPORT — The Niagara Falls teen accused in the murder of a 5-year-old girl is moving forward with a potential insanity defense, his lawyer said.

Defense attorney Robert Viola told prosecutors and Niagara County Court Judge Matthew J. Murphy III on Thursday that John Robert Freeman Jr. will undergo thee days of examination by a forensic psychologist as he looks to gather psychiatric evidence in the case. The examination will take place Feb. 11 to 13.

After that, a report from the psychologist will be sent to Murphy and the prosecutors. Prosecutors are also expected to ask for an opportunity to have their own expert psychologist examine Freeman.

The examinations are expected to push back Freeman’s trial date from late February until sometime later in the spring or summer. Murphy did remind the attorneys though that, “We know the importance of the trial moving along.”

Both sides in the case agreed to a hearing on whether a statement Freeman made to police can be used at his trial.

Freeman, 18, faces charges of second-degree murder and tampering with physical evidence in the slaying of Isabella Tennant. His friend and co-defendant Tyler Best, 20, is charged with hindering prosecution and tampering with physical evidence.

Both Freeman and Best have pleaded not guilty. 

Tennant was reported missing about 6:20 a.m. Aug. 27, when patrol officers were called to her great grandmother’s home in the 400 block of Sixth Street. The great grandmother told police Isabella had disappeared overnight.

Freeman has been described by members of Tennant’s family as a “close” and “trusted” friend. They also said that it was not uncommon for him to be in the great grandmother’s home and be around Isabella without supervision.

While detectives questioned Freeman, Best arrived at Falls police headquarters and told investigators he had information about Tennant’s disappearance. He then led police to a trash can in the alley behind 531 Third St., where Tennant’s body was found.

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