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Leah Freeman Cold Case: High School Sweetheart Nicholas McGuffin Arrested 10 Years After Her Death

Leah Freeman and Nicholas McGuffin at Prom (Personal Photo)
Leah Freeman Cold Case: High School Sweetheart Nicholas McGuffin Arrested 10 Years After Her Death
Leah Freeman (Personal Photo)

COQUILLE, Ore. (CBS/KVAL) On Aug. 3, 2000, Leah Freeman's body was found at the bottom of a steep embankment on the outskirts of her Oregon town.

PICTURES: Leah Freeman Cold Case Heats Up

Now, more than ten years later, Nicholas McGuffin, her boyfriend at the time of the murder, has been arrested - a breakthrough in the case that has tortured Leah's family and stumped investigators.

According to police reports and the website Leah's mother created to keep the investigation into her daughter's death alive, McGuffin dropped Leah off at the house of a friend, Sherri Mitchell, at around 7 p.m. on June 28, 2000. He said that he planned to pick her up at 9 p.m. But according to Mitchell, she and Leah had a fight and Leah and decided to walk home alone.

McGuffin told police that after he didn't find her at Mitchell's house he drove around the small town of Coquille, Ore., in southern Oregon, looking for her but eventually assumed she got home okay and went home.

But Leah never did make it home, and an intense search and investigation began. Search warrants for McGuffin's parents' house and car, as well as his car, were executed but nothing was found. Police also issued a search warrant for McGuffin's friend, Brent Bartley's car and parents' house.

Leah Freeman and Nicholas McGuffin at Prom (Personal Photo)

Both men were given polygraphs in July 2000, and McGuffin failed when asked if he was involved in Leah's disappearance, according to The Oregonian.

PICTURES: Leah Freeman Cold Case Heats Up

Bartley also failed when asked if he had knowledge about what happened to Leah and if someone had told him that they were involved, according to a letter sent to Bartley's attorney by the DA offering immunity in exchange for his full cooperation - an offer that Bartley did not take, according to the paper.

Leah's body was found Aug. 3, but instead of giving the investigation the boost such a discovery usually does, the investigation seemed to fizzle, and a grand jury that was scheduled was postponed indefinitely.

Then, nearly eight months ago, Coquille police announced that they had created a cold case team to reinvestigate Leah's disappearance and subsequent murder. Coos County District Attorney R. Paul Frasier said at the time that the team of about 20 investigators would be starting from square one, treating the case as though it happened yesterday.

"New technology has been applied, new leads have been added that weren't there initially," Coquille Police Chief Mark Dannels said at a press conference back in January. The fresh look soon paid off and by June investigators announced that they had a suspect. They said they would be presenting their evidence to a grand jury and planned to call at least 100 witnesses.

On Monday Frasier announced that the grand jury indicted the man that Leah's family has felt was responsible all along - McGuffin, her high school sweetheart.

While Frasier said the arrest brought him relief after pursuing the case for over ten years, he acknowledged this is only the beginning. "[This is] just the first step in the process, and we have a lot of hard work ahead of us," he said at the press conference.

But Leah's mother says she is confident that investigators have the right man.

"It was like it finally, finally, finally happened," Cory Courtright told CBS affiliate KOIN. "I think they got the right guy, I do."

McGuffin is currently being held on a $2 million bond.