The teen charged in the death of five-year-old Isabella Tennant in Niagara Falls last year has pleaded guilty. YNN's Antoinette DelBel has more about John Freeman's plea in Niagara County Court Wednesday.
LOCKPORT, N.Y. — In Niagara County Court Wednesday, John Freeman, 17, pleaded guilty to second degree murder in connection with the death of five-year-old Isabella Tennant at her great-grandmother's home in Niagara Falls last August.
Freeman also pleaded guilty to tampering with physical evidence.
His attorney had said he wanted Freeman to have a psychiatric examination.
Although a gag order on the case prevented attorneys from talking, YNN spoke with a criminal justice professor who said an insanity defense is hard to prove.
"The mental disease or defect defense as it's called in New York, or the insanity defense, as people commonly refer to it, is very rarely used and it is more rare that it is successful," said Buffalo State College professor Connie Lozinsky.
In fact, Lozinsky said the chances of a defendant being found not guilty by reason of mental disease are less than one percent. In such cases, the defense would have to prove the person did not know right from wrong.
"You have to show from the get-go that he has some type of illness, but that illness rendered him incapable of knowing what he did, or knowing the consequences of his actions," said Lozinsky.
However, Bella's father, Michael Tennant, said both Freeman and Tyler Best, who was charged in connection with the murder, did know what they were doing.
Police said Freeman used his bare hands to suffocate Bella and then he and Best placed her in a trash bin.
Tennant, who did not want to go on camera, said the whole situation destroyed his life. He said the only justice will be if the two men “burn in hell.”
Bella's mother, Crystal Walker, released a statement after the plea. She said:
"The pain of losing my daughter will never subside. She was my best friend and my everything. I still feel as though I am living someone else's life. I am glad he finally pleaded out instead of dragging this out any longer."
The court clerk said Freeman's sentencing will be Sept. 5. She said he faces anywhere from 15 years to life in prison.