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COQUILLE - He sat at the defendant's table.

She among her friends and family.

Yet Nick McGuffin and Cory Courtright shared one thing at the 28-year-old's Tuesday arraignment - their tears.

He cried before the hearing. He cried when Judge Michael Gillespie read the murder indictment, and he cried when he left the courtroom.

Courtright, upon entering the room, set her teary eyes on McGuffin, sobbed and shielded her face with her hands.

For the remainder of the hearing she stared disgustedly at the man she believes killed her 15-year-old daughter a decade ago.

‘It's your turn'

"It's your turn buddy. I've cried for 10-plus years," Courtright said of McGuffin after the hearing.

"‘I hope you cry for the rest of your life.' That's what I'd say to him."

Gillespie arraigned McGuffin on a grand jury indictment charging one count of murder in connection with Leah Freeman's homicide on or around June 28, 2000. He was 18.

The judge also set McGuffin's bail at $2 million.

Eugene defense attorney Shaun McCrea entered a not-guilty plea for her defendant, who could face a mandatory life imprisonment sentence with a 25-year minimum.

The judge also set a Sept. 2 bail reduction or release hearing, followed by a status hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 11 in family court.

‘I'm not a flight risk'

Red-faced and gaunt in an orange Coos County jail jumpsuit, McGuffin sniffled as the judge asked if he had any questions.

"Just thank you for trying to get the ... for letting us try to get the bail reduced," McGuffin told Gillespie.

"I'm not a flight risk and I'm just a family man and I work hard."

Following the hearing, Gillespie directed Court-right's family and McGuffin's supporters to leave separately and in different directions to avoid a confrontation.

Coos County District Attorney R. Paul Frasier said the two families have exhibited some hostility.

"In this case, obviously it's been going on a long time," Frasier said.

"So the emotions are probably higher than the average run-of-the-mill case we have in the courthouse."

The DA said it's no surprise the McGuffin family believes he's innocent.

Impartial jury

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Although McGuffin hopes to be released while he awaits trial, Frasier said he can't recall a single case in his 26 years in prosecution in which a judge released a homicide suspect on his own recognizance.

He also said a motion for a change of venue from the defense would be expected in such a case. However, he has withheld information - including Leah's cause of death - to improve prospects of gathering an impartial and fair jury.

"The more I talk about the facts - the more people learn - it becomes harder to pick a fair and impartial jury," Frasier said.

"The test is not ‘Have you heard about this case?' The test is, ‘Has what you heard ... given you an opinion on what the outcome of the case should be and you're not going to change your mind no matter what happens in the courtroom?'"

Frasier went on to say that there are rumors McGuffin had accomplices. However, no evidence supports that. He added that the statute of limitations for someone who has aided in the commission or concealment of a crime is only three years.

"But if somebody thinks they have the goods on somebody, I'd certainly like to hear about it."

Grand jury delays

Frasier said the arrest didn't occur earlier because, in Oregon, a case involving a suspect in custody must go before a grand jury within five days to receive an indictment. Without one, the suspect must be released.

Frasier said it would have been difficult to present his 113 witnesses in such a short time span.

Also, the grand jury could have returned the indictment as early as Aug. 11 when Frasier finished presenting witnesses, but members decided to put off deliberation to another date because it was too late in the day.

Jurors' schedules didn't agree until Monday, when Frasier returned from a week-long visit to the National Advocacy Center in South Carolina, where he served on the faculty for a trial advocacy class for new prosecutors.

He had committed to the class in January.

10-year frustration

The Leah Freeman case is by far the oldest case Frasier has prosecuted. He's been involved in it since the beginning.

About a week after Leah disappeared, law enforcement activated the major crimes team, and Frasier - then a chief deputy DA - was asked to join.

A grand jury was convened to determine Leah's whereabouts before her body was discovered near Fairview 37 days after her disappearance.

Another gathered to review the case and McGuffin's involvement, but it issued no indictments.

"Everybody was in agreement; we just didn't have enough evidence," Frasier said.

"I've had lots of cases in my career - whether it be a theft case or whatever - where I'm pretty sure I know who did it but I just can't prove it.

"That's always frustrating. But it was frustrating especially in this case."

Reporter Jessica Musicar can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 240; or at jmusicar@theworldlink.com.

 

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