Victim's mother shares anger with council
With Cory Courtright seated just a few feet in front, Assistant District Attorney R. Paul Frasier spoke briefly to the city council. Coquille Police Chief Michael Reaves is seated next to him. He said information on Leah Freeman's death will not be released until an arrest has been made. - World Photo by Lou Sennick

COQUILLE -- Quiet emotion flared into anger among audience members Wednesday night when Coquille City Council members had little to say following an emotional address by Cory Courtright, the mother of 15-year-old Leah Freeman, whose murder more than six months ago remains unsolved.

Courtright came before the council to discuss problems she and her family have been having with the Coquille Police Department including lack of information, cooperation and disrespect surrounding the case.

"When they told me on Aug. 3, that they had found her body I had no idea what the next six months would bring -- nothing but lies, anticipation and total frustration," Courtright said.

"The police have just left me sitting and waiting and wondering. I don't know my own daughter's cause of death. I have even been told by a police officer, on more than one occasion, that I just need to go get good and drunk," she said.

Freeman disappeared sometime after 9 p.m. on June 28 while walking from her friend's house on Elm Street in Coquille to her mother's house on Knott Street.

Courtright said she became worried at about 3:30 a.m. when she woke up and found her daughter had not come home. The following morning Courtright called the police -- initiating a search which lasted for 37 days.

On Aug. 3, Freeman's body was discovered in a forested area off Fairview Road. Since the discovery of the body, no arrests have been made and police have only said the girl died of "homicidal violence."

Courtright said, "Another thing I don't understand is why my daughter's murder case only deserves a part-time officer. They have even told me that they don't have the man-power. Then why does the Coquille Police Department have this case?"

Courtright said she came before the council to explain the treatment she has received from the police department.

"I am asking you, the City Council, to investigate the Coquille City Police Department and their handling of this case," she said.

While some City Council members, including Kathy Hagen, identified with Courtright's anguish, they said there was little they could do.

"I sympathize with all she and her family have been through," said Hagen.

However, Coquille Mayor Mike Swindall told Courtright there was little the city councilors could do for her as they have no jurisdiction over the police department.

"We don't have anything to do with the police. We just run the city. The chief of police is hired by the city manager. You can go talk to (the police) anytime you want -- but not right now," said Swindall.

Despite the allegations, Assistant District Attorney R. Paul Frasier said the police department continues to view Freeman's case as a top priority.

"At this point, we are doing everything we can. The investigation has not been dropped and we have officers from a variety of different agencies, including the North Bend Police and the Sheriff's Office, following up on leads," said Frasier.

"In terms of the cause of death, we will not publicly release that information at this time. In my experience, some things need to be kept confidential. Sorry, but that's how it's going to be," he said. "At the time of an arrest the cause of death will be disclosed to the family."

Coquille Police Chief Michael Reaves was present at the meeting but did not address the allegations -- a point which was upsetting to many in the crowd, including Janet Reab, who attended the meeting expecting answers.

"The police chief didn't even stand up. He didn't say anything. You would think he would have some better answers. This whole thing is a joke," said Reab.

Courtright also said she felt let down by the meeting.

"This was a total waste of time," said Courtright surrounded by friends and supporters in the crowded hall outside the City Council chambers. "The next step will be to bring this to the Justice Department. The police can get it set in their heads that they will be seeing this face for a long time," she said.

Other audience members were looking for a more direct and visible approach to express their anger. Several in the crowd discussed the possibility of picketing in front of the Coquille City Hall as well as calling America's Most Wanted.

This morning Swindall said, "It was a bad situation last night. I was probably a little short, but I had to stop it before people started bashing each other."

"I know Cory, and I understand the frustration she must be feeling. If I was in her position I would be doing the same thing. But the City Council really doesn't know anything about the case. They don't tell us anything either," he said.

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