Jury finds man not guilty of teen's murder, guilty of manslaughter

Jury finds man not guilty of teen's murder, guilty of manslaughter »Play Video
Leah Freeman

COQUILLE, Ore. - A jury found a man accused of killing his high school girlfriend in 2000 not guilty of murder but guilty of first-degree manslaughter.

Nick McGuffin was on trial for the death of 15-year-old Leah Freeman in 2000.

Officers from the Coquille Police Department and Coos County Sheriff's Office lined both sides of the courtroom as the verdict came down around 11 o'clock Tuesday.

As the judge read the verdict, McGuffin broke down into tears. His hands were shaking as he brought a tissue to his face.

Freeman's mother, Cory Courtright, cried as the verdict was read.

The jury found McGuffin not guilty of murder by a vote of 10-2.

They jury found McGuffin guilty of manslaughter by a vote of 10-2.

Sentencing hearing is set for August 1. He faces a 10-year prison sentence under Oregon's mandatory minimum sentencing laws.

Freeman disappeared in June 2000 when she was 15 years old.

Initially reported as a possible runaway and later a missing person, the discovery of her body off the side of a rural road in August 2000 shifted the case to homicide.

Another 10 years would pass before a grand jury would indict Freeman's boyfriend at the time, McGuffin (at right), and charge him with her murder.

Prosecutors argued McGuffin was upset Freeman was not spending time with him on the night she dissappeared.

"The volatile mix of those two individuals came to a violent end with Leah Freeman's life being taken," Erika Soublet, Coos County's chief deputy district attorney, said in her opening statement.

The defense said the prosecution's time frame just didn't match up.

"The evidence will show that no one saw Nick catch up with Leah at anytime along the road," defense attorney Shaun McCrea told the jury from the outset.

Freeman's cause of death was never determined beyond "homicidal violence," according to medical experts who testified at the trial.

Prosecutors called a number of friends of the two to testify about their behavior at the time. The testimony painted a picture of a drug- and sex-soaked South Coast community of young people at the turn of the century.

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