Aug. 25, 2010 — -- A man charged with murder Tuesday in a case that has haunted the hamlet of Coquille, Ore., for 10 years proclaimed his innocence and called the alleged victim, 15-year-old Leah Freeman, the "love of my life."
Nicholas McGuffin, 28, was charged Tuesday with killing then-girlfriend Freeman in 2000. Local authorities said McGuffin had long been a suspect in a crime. McGuffin pleaded not guilty.
When police arrived at McGuffin's home to arrest him, he was retrieving his mail, wearing a uniform from his job as a chef. He stood quietly as police read him his rights and handcuffed him.
We asked whether he had committed the crime.
"No, I didn't do it," McGuffin said. "She was the love of my life, man."
ABC News was at the home of Cory Courtright, Leah's mother, as she and Leah's family heard the news of the arrest.
Courtright said she was overjoyed and praised the work of Police Chief Mark Dannels.
"I was beginning to lose hope, but once Chief Dannels hit Coquille, that changed," Courtright said. "This community is very, very fortunate to have him here."
Leah disappeared on a summer night after visiting a friend's house. Police originally treated the disappearance as a runaway teen case. Weeks later the girl's body was found on a forested roadside slope outside town.
"I don't think a day went by unless I was trying another case that I didn't think about what we could do on this case," said Coos County District Attorney Paul Frasier.
McGuffin worked as a chef at a casino.
"I'm not a flight risk. I'm a family man and I work hard," McGuffin told the judge at his arraignment.
Frasier dismissed McGuffin's family's claim that he had been framed for the crime.
"If they think he's been framed, I'll certainly look at whatever evidence they have to suggest that," said Frasier. "You could say if you did this or that, you could have a different result back then, but I really can't say one way or the other to that question. We're here where we are because of what we've done in the last two years."
Bail was set at $2 million.