Nicholas “Nick” McGuffin spent nine years in prison for the Oregon murder of his 15-year-old girlfriend. It’s a crime he says he didn’t commit. Where is McGuffin today?
He’s now a recently free man because a judge ruled that old DNA evidence could have changed the verdict if the jurors had been allowed to hear it. KGW8 reported that a judge found that Oregon State Police “failed to reveal DNA evidence that would have exonerated” McGuffin at trial. That decision came down in December 2019.
McGuffin gave his first interview since his overturned conviction to ABC’s 20/20 to air on Friday, February 28, 2020. “I was facing life in prison for a crime I didn’t commit,” he told 20/20. The murder took place in Coquille Oregon in 2000.
Here’s what you need to know:
The key piece of evidence in Leah Freeman’s murder: Her bloody gym shoe. According to ABC, that shoe and its blood evidence have provided the main forensic evidence in the case.
Today, Nick McGuffin is 37 years old. “That’s the reason why I’m here…to keep Leah’s name in the light. To bring her name forward, to get somebody to come forward with the truth of what happened. To get resolution for myself, for her family,” he told 20/20.
Leah and Nicholas were both in high school when the murder occurred; they had gone to prom together. He had dropped her off at a friend’s house that night, 20/20 reports, adding that Leah was last seen walking home. She was never seen alive again.
Before he was charged, convicted, and then released, McGuffin became a head chef at a casino in North Bend, Oregon after graduating from culinary school, ABC reports. He also had a daughter.
The shoe had DNA on it from another man, leading to McGuffin’s release.
Since his release, McGuffin has struggled to rebuild his life. According to ABC, he’s had trouble finding a job because of the conviction, but he does enjoy spending time with his daughter. “It’s not an easy feat. The stigma, even now, trying to get a job. … I want to work. I’m passionate about my career,” McGuffin said to ABC. “I remain an innocent man. That’s not going to change.”
The case was so weak that McGuffin was convicted with an unanimous jury, which is allowed in Oregon, according to OPB. He received a 10 year sentence and served about 9 years of it.
According to OPB, Janis Puracal, an attorney with the Forensic Justice Project, who represented McGuffin, told OPB: “There was no evidence against him. He just happened to be her boyfriend at the time. There were no eyewitnesses, there was no DNA connecting him to the crime, and there was no other evidence that tied him to anything that happened to her.”
Authorities haven’t been able to link the DNA to another suspect because of how small the sample is. “We consulted with a DNA expert,” Puracal said to OPB. “She reviewed the charts, graphs, and raw data from the DNA testing in 2000. She was the one who saw that there was unidentified male DNA on both of the victim’s shoes that had not been reported by the state lab. There was unidentified male DNA in the victim’s [spilled] blood and it was never reported.”