LOCKPORT, N.Y. (AP) - A Niagara Falls teenager was sentenced to 22-years to life in prison for stranguling and killing a 5-year-old girl he was babysitting.
John Freeman Jr. appeared in Niagara County Court Thursday afternoon. He pleaded guilty in July to charges of second-degree murder and evidence tampering.
Freeman cried in court and tried to apologize for what he did.
"We are totally broken over this and it will take a long, long time for everything to change so I hope he stays there forever," a relative said. "I think he's sorry in hindsight because he's facing life in jail."
Authorities say the 17-year-old killed Isabella Tennant at the girl's great-grandparents' home in Niagara Falls in August 2012. Isabella was spending the night there while her mother worked. Freeman was a neighbor of the homeowners, who said they left the girl in his care when they went to bed.
"Just disgusting how you can't imagine what was going through his mind when he was murdering a 5-year-old girl that he knew from the day she was born," said Ashley Santangelo, one of Isabella's cousins.
Investigators say Freeman disposed of Isabella's body in a garbage container with the help of an 18-year-old friend, Travis Best.
"We're left to try to figure out why it happened, and after a year we don't even have that answer," said Holly Sloma, a prosecutor from the Niagara County District Attorney's office.
Freeman's attorney tried to argue that Freeman has a condition that affects his judgment.
Both the family and the court did not buy that argument. Instead, they are focused on letting others know what a great girl little Bella was.
Prosecutors say the last words Isabella said were quote: "it's your turn to color." And say they don't know how those joyful words could've led to her death. Meantime, Best is set to be sentenced in three weeks.