Statement Analysis®

Leah Freeman


Leah Freeman was a 15 year old teenager living in Coquille, Oregon. On June 28, 2000, her boyfriend, Nick McGuffin, dropped Freeman off at the home of her best friend Sherrie Mitchell. McGuffin told Freeman he would be back at 9:00 p.m. to pick her up. When McGuffin returned to Mitchell's house at 9:00 p.m. Mitchell told him that she and Freeman had gotten into an argument and that Freeman had just left and was walking home. McGuffin claims he drove around Coquille looking for Freeman but he never found her. Even though several people saw her walking around town Freeman never made it home. The next morning her mother reported her missing. About one month later, Leah Freeman's body was found in the woods several miles outside of town.

As the police conducted their investigation they had a suspect in their sites. It was Freeman's boyfriend Nick McGuffin. McGuffin had been acting strangely in the hours and days after Freeman's disappearance. He became a prime suspect when he failed a polygraph test in regards to Freeman's disappearance. Despite their suspicions, the police could not gather enough evidence to charge McGuffin with Freeman's murder. The case would go unsolved for ten years.

In August 2008, the town of Coquille hired Mark Dannels as their new police chief. With pressure coming from the community and Freeman's family, Dannels reopened the Freeman murder investigation. In addition to interviewing hundreds of witnesses, the authorities also turned to the Vidocq Society for assistance. The Vidocq Society is a group of professionals who apply their skills and experience to cold case homicides and unsolved deaths. By donating their time, deductive reasoning and forensic talents, they help to solve the unsolved cases they receive.

In November 2009, the Vidocq Society asked me to analyze the statement McGuffin gave to the police shortly after Freeman disappeared. As I reviewed his statement I could see there were several signs he was being deceptive about what happened the night Freeman disappeared. I shared my findings with the Vidocq Society and with the ABC show 20/20 who was doing a story on the unsolved murder. I discussed with correspondent Jim Avila the verb tenses McGuffin used. In talking about Leah Freeman and Sherrie Mitchell's friendship, McGuffin stated, "Sherrie is like was like her best friend." McGuffin used past tense language in stating that Mitchell and Freeman are no longer best friends; "was like her best friend." The question is how does he know the friendship had ended? At the time he gave this statement, Freeman was still missing. This means he may have talked to Freeman while she was missing and she told him Mitchell was no longer her best friend. A more plausible explanation for his past tense verbiage is that he knows Freeman is dead. Since he killed her or witnessed her death, he knows that she and Mitchell are no longer best friends.

In August 2010, a Coos County, Oregon grand jury indicted Nick McGuffin for the murder of Leah Freeman. McGuffin was arrested and bail was set at $2 million. He pled not guilty and went to trial in July 2011. On July 19, 2011, the jury found him guilty of manslaughter. McGuffin was sentenced on August 1, 2011 to ten years in prison for the death of Leah Freeman.


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