In June 2000, high school freshman Leah Freeman went missing from her hometown of Coquille, Oregon. With one of her shoes being discovered on the night of her disappearance and the other pair being located a week later, the police knew they had a homicide on their hands. ’20/20: Last Seen Walking’ chronicles the mysterious disappearance and shows how suspicion fell on Leah’s boyfriend, Nick McGuffin, after her body was recovered. Let’s dig in deep and find out where Nick is today, shall we?
Who Is Nick McGuffin?
At the time of Leah’s disappearance and murder, Nick was a senior at her high school, and the two were in a relationship. Although according to the show, Leah’s mother did not approve of their relationship and wanted it to end, the pair were quite happy together. On June 28, 2000, Nick and Leah had decided to go on a double date, and he dropped her off at her friend Cherie Mitchell’s house to prepare. Incidentally, Cherie and Leah had an argument related to the latter’s relationship, which led to Leah leaving her friend’s house alone.
According to the show, the high school student was last seen walking alone near her high school before disappearing into thin air. On that same night, a mechanic found one of Leah’s gym shoes close to a cemetery nearby her high school. However, not knowing the shoe’s significance, he was late to turn it in. The second shoe was recovered a week later, and authorities found blood on it.
Initially, Nick told the police that he and his friend, Kristen Steinhoff, had searched far and wide for Leah on that night. After searching for his girlfriend till 2 am, Nick dropped Kristen off and returned to Leah’s house. He then found the TV to be switched on and concluded that Leah must be back home. On August 3, 2000, almost five weeks after Leah went missing, her body was recovered from a wooded embankment.
The police also concluded that she was strangled to death. Although Nick volunteered to give his statement to the police and even allowed them to take photos of him, the suspicion ultimately fell on the high school senior. However, with no leads or evidence to tie him to the murder, the case sat unsolved for a long time.
In the meantime, Nick had to live with anxiety and even mentioned that he tried to die by suicide. Still, after his recovery, he moved on to another relationship and even had a wonderful daughter in 2007. Additionally, his career picked up, and after graduating culinary school, he found himself as The Mill Casino’s head banquet chef. In 2008, the town of Coquille got a new police chief who took it upon himself to solve Leah’s murder.
While re-investigating, the police came across Kristen Steinhoff, who alleged that on the night of Leah’s disappearance, she and Nick had done drugs before he expressed a desire to have sex with her. Kristen also claimed that she turned down Nick’s sexual advances. On the other hand, Nick vehemently denied asking for sex and said that the two had just kissed. Yet, he did affirm that he and Kristen smoked marijuana together. Based on the statements, a grand jury indicted Nick, and he was arrested for murder.
Where Is Nick McGuffin Now?
Once put on trial, Nick pleaded not guilty to the charges against him and was acquitted of the murder charge by the jury. However, on a 10-2 majority, the jury did find Nick guilty of manslaughter. Based on his conviction, Nick was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2011. Initially, Nick was incarcerated at the Snake River Correctional Institution but was soon shifted to a Tillamook State Forest labor camp for his good behavior.
Meanwhile, attorney Janis Puracal decided to look at Nick’s case in 2014 and found that neither the defense nor the prosecution had tested the victim’s shoes for DNA evidence in the 2011 trial. Furthermore, DNA testing in 2000 was not as advanced, which meant that the shoes were never properly examined. In 2017, she requested to re-examine the shoes, and reports found an unidentified foreign DNA profile. Additionally, Nick’s DNA was nowhere to be found on the victim’s shoes. Using this evidence, Nick overturned his conviction in 2019.
After his release from jail, the prosecution said they wouldn’t be asking for a retrial as Nick had served most of his ten-year sentence, and a retrial would only force the victim’s family to relive their pain. For Nick, life after prison has been emotionally taxing as even landing a job proved quite challenging. However, his relationship with his daughter is what gives him the strength to carry on in life.
In 2020, Nick filed a federal civil rights lawsuit for wrongful conviction against the police departments of the City of Coos Bay, Coquille, and Oregon. The Coos County sheriff’s department is also mentioned in the lawsuit. In 2020, reports claimed that Nick was living in Portland and was employed as a chef. He even appeared on ’20/20: Last Seen Walking’ to speak about his experience. Moreover, he is also determined to solve Leah’s murder and find the perpetrator in order to give himself and Leah’s family a sense of justice.
Read More: Leah Freeman Murder: Who Killed Her?