John FreemanAs the nation shifts its eyes toward the family of 5-year-old Isabella Tennant, the Niagara Falls girl murdered and stuffed in a garbage can near her great-grandmother's home, one word comes to mind. Compassion. I'd like to think that the judgment hurled at the families of murdered children in the wake of grisly discoveries comes from a desperate desire to understand what went wrong so we can keep our own children safer. But picking apart the Tennant family's last moves will only make this tragedy seem that much more senseless.

They are grieving. And the cops already have not one but two suspects in custody. Among them is John Freeman, the 16-year-old neighbor and long-time family friend who cops say was last seen with Isabella late Sunday night.

According to reports, the two were playing on Isabella's great-grandmother's computer around 10:30 p.m. when the older woman went to bed. But Monday morning, the great-grandmother called police, frantic. Isabella was missing.

And then, later that day, the horror. Another teenager named Tyler Best, who lived with Isabella's great-grandmother, allegedly came forward to police. They say he told them that John Freeman killed the little girl, and he helped dispose of the body in a garbage can nearby. Indeed, that's where she was found.

The two boys are both under arrest -- Freeman charged with murder, Best with tampering with evidence.

But it still leaves the question: how could an innocent night turn so wrong?

This 5-year-old was up late, it's true. But it's still summer vacation in New York State. My daughter has had more than her fair share of late nights here in our home, followed by a lie in the following morning. Nothing out of the ordinary there.

In fact, it all sounds strikingly familiar: a little girl, in a family home, hanging out on a summer evening playing games. She was in her great-grandmother's home, where she should have been safe.

And what of the boy? He was a "trusted" family friend, a boy who had been around the child dozens of times. She was left in the care of a responsible teenager, where she should have been safe.

So what are we left with? A horrific tragedy that could have happened to any one of us. There is no feeling better here, no better protecting our kids. There is only hugging our children tighter and sending our most sympathetic words to a family in Niagara Falls. They didn't do anything to deserve this.

What do you wish you could say to Isabella Tennant's family today?

 

Image via Niagara County Sheriff's Office