Leah Freeman Article in The Oregonian/ Portland's Newspaper - November 4, 2009

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Normal Leah Freeman Article in The Oregonian/ Portland's Newspaper - November 4, 2009

Post by Nama on Sun Nov 08, 2009 8:47 pm

Search for justice: A decade after her daughter died, Coquille mom still wants answers
By Lori Tobias, The Oregonian
November 04, 2009, 9:10PM
Leah Freeman Article in The Oregonian/ Portland's Newspaper - November 4, 2009 Leah

COQUILLE – Nine and a half years ago on a clear June evening, Leah Freeman, 15, left her friend's house in a huff, and headed for her home, only a few blocks away.

Several people would see the slight, 5-foot-2 teen striding up Central Avenue, past McKay's Market, past Hunter's Restaurant, past the credit union.

She wore jeans, a white tank top and white Nikes with a yellow swoosh.

Later that night, one of those Nikes would be found by the local cemetery, and a week or so later, the second shoe, far out of town on a dirt road. It was splattered with blood.

That's when Leah's mom, Cory Courtright , knew her daughter wasn't coming home.

Leah would have turned 25 on Oct. 29. Only days before, her father, Denny Freeman, died of cancer, never knowing how his daughter's life ended, why, and most importantly, who killed her.

Now Courtright, 53, wonders if she will eventually die with the same questions: Did her daughter die at the hands of a friend, as police have long suspected; or was she the victim of a passerby who saw a pretty young girl alone and stole away with her into the night?

"I have to find justice," says Courtright. "This was my child. I just can't stand the thought of someone getting away with this."

This photo of Leah Freeman still hangs in her mother's home.
Leah Freeman Article in The Oregonian/ Portland's Newspaper - November 4, 2009 Leah2

The day Leah disappeared, June 28, 2000, she spent the afternoon and early evening with her boyfriend Nicholas McGuffin , then 18, and his friend Brent Bartley , 20. According to Coos County court records from the case, they washed McGuffin's car, watched videos and ate dinner at Bartley's grandparents.

About 7 p.m., McGuffin took Leah to Sherrie Mitchell's house. The girl's mother, Peggy Mitchell, would later tell police that Leah left at about 9 p.m., angry because she refused to allow Sherrie to go jogging with Leah. Numerous people spotted Leah that night up until 9:15. Then, nothing.

A bit later, McGuffin showed up at Mitchell's, looking for Leah. Learning she'd already gone, he set off to find her. He told police her drove around looking for her, then went back to the Mitchell's about 10:15 p.m, and used their phone to call Leah's house.

At 11 p.m., he picked up Bartley, and stopped by Denny's Pizza to talk to Leah's sister, Denise. McGuffin and Bartley continued looking for Leah until 2:30 a.m, when McGuffin said he dropped Bartley off and again went by Leah's house. He said he saw a light on in her bedroom and tried unsuccessfully to get her attention, then finally went home.

Court records show that McGuffin was stopped twice that night by the local police for a missing headlight. Police say at one point, he swapped his '67 Ford Mustang for his parent's 1991 Ford Thunderbird, and then again for the Mustang. But the family has denied that, according to Coos County District Attorney Paul Frasier.

At 3:30 a.m., Courtright awoke and went to her daughter's bedroom.

"The light was on and her bed was empty," she recalls. "I kind of panicked at that point." Still, at worst, Courtright assumed Leah had spent the night with McGuffin.

At 8 a.m. on June 29, she called his house.

"I asked him, 'Where is my daughter?' He said, 'She didn't come home last night?' I said, 'No.' He said, 'I don't know, I'll be right in.' And that's when he came to town."

Leah Freeman Article in The Oregonian/ Portland's Newspaper - November 4, 2009 Map Roughly five weeks after Leah disappeared, three county detectives took a drive on Fairview Avenue. About nine miles out, they turned onto Lee Valley Road, drove past the sign that warns the pavement ends, and into a dark, heavily wooded area. There, down a steep, dense embankment off a winding gravel road, they found Leah Freeman's body.

It didn't take long for police to turn their suspicions toward McGuffin and Bartley, but search warrants for both cars – executed for the Mustang about eight days after Leah went missing and for the Thunderbird more than a month after – revealed nothing.

The Mustang's trunk had been stripped clean, but according to court documents, McGuffin's father told police the car had recently been repaired, necessitating the removal of everything from the trunk. The pair also apparently did not do well on polygraph tests, but when offered immunity to tell all he knew about McGuffin's role in the Leah's murder, Bartley had nothing to say.

And that, so far, is where the story ends.

Neither McGuffin nor Bartley could not be reached for comment and McGuffin's defense attorney, Robert McCrae said he hasn't heard from his client for some time. But he said he still considers himself McGuffin's attorney and still believes the now 27-year-old is innocent.

He wonders if police have even considered other possibilities.

"They get an idea about who done it and they seem incapable of going outside of the box," says McCrea.

Not true, says, Coos County D.A. Paul Frasier.

"When we get a tip we are on top of it," says Frasier, who has never revealed the cause of Leah's death in hopes the information might eventually help catch the killer. "The rumor mills have been up and going. We have gone and looked at three or four other individuals, and all have been found not to be have been involved.

"That case is always on my mind. I personally have been involved since a few days after she disappeared. There is nothing more in the world I would like to do than to solve this crime."

And nothing more in the world Cory Courtright would like for him.

"It's become my life," says Courtright. "It's there when I wake up and it's there when I go to bed. I never ever thought I'd spend the latter years of my life looking for the killer of my daughter, and unlike her dad, I hope I don't have to leave this world without knowing."

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Last edited by BJ in OR on Sun Nov 08, 2009 9:04 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Normal Cory's Letter to The Editor of The Oregonian - "Help put murderer in jail"

Post by Nama on Sun Nov 08, 2009 8:49 pm

Help put murderer in jail

Nearly a decade ago, my daughter's life was cut tragically short when she was murdered at 15 years old in Coquille. My daughter is Leah Freeman and on Oct. 29, she would have turned 25. As I endure this painful anniversary, I am driven to continue to seek justice for my daughter, her murder remains unsolved. Today I am making a public plea to Coos County District Attorney Paul Frasier to assign a dedicated team to re-investigate the case.

There has been a lot of turmoil and personnel changes with the primary investigating agency, the Coquille Police Department, and focused professionals are needed to go back and look through all of the files again, re-interview everyone involved and re-examine all of the evidence.

I miss my daughter horribly and I fear for others, because her murderer is still free. This person -- a threat to our community -- needs to be incarcerated.

My family is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. If you have information regarding my daughter's murder, please contact the Coquille Police Department at 541-396-2114, or Coos Stop Crime at 541-267-6666.

CORY COURTRIGHT
Coquille

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Normal Re: Leah Freeman Article in The Oregonian/ Portland's Newspaper - November 4, 2009

Post by CritterFan1 on Sun Nov 08, 2009 8:52 pm

Fantastic letter, you can tell it is from the heart.
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Normal Re: Leah Freeman Article in The Oregonian/ Portland's Newspaper - November 4, 2009

Post by Juanita on Mon Nov 09, 2009 7:43 am

i really hope this article breaks the case! congrats cory!!!! other than that, im totally speechless, i cant imagine what you have been going through for so long.
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Normal Re: Leah Freeman Article in The Oregonian/ Portland's Newspaper - November 4, 2009

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