Former Alaska stripper gets 99 years in murder plot
Associated Press Writer
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) ” A former stripper convicted of plotting to kill a fiance 12 years ago was sentenced Wednesday to 99 years in prison, the same sentence given to the coconspirator who pulled the trigger.
Mechele Linehan, 35, who until her arrest had been living a quiet life as the wife of an Olympia, Wash., doctor, was convicted in October of first-degree murder in the 1996 shooting death of Kent Leppink.
Prosecutor Pat Gullufsen said Linehan plotted with another man who hoped to marry her, John Carlin III, to lure Leppink to a rural trail, where Carlin shot him with a .44-caliber handgun.
The motive was a $1 million insurance policy that Linehan mistakenly believed named her as the beneficiary, prosecutors said.
Anchorage Superior Court Judge Philip Volland called the crime the worst in its category: premeditated, cold and cruel.
“It was a calculated homicide accomplished through deceit, deception and manipulation,” Volland said. “It was done for the most venal of reasons and it was dismissed by the two participants in the most casual of ways. It was a man killed by his friend and his fiance.”
Volland rejected the contention that Linehan was not a significant participant in Leppink’s murder. The evidence showed her obtaining the life insurance policy on Leppink as she was deceiving him about her intentions to marry him, he said. She also used deceit to lure him to the murder scene.
“Just those facts are ones that support complicity in the event,” Volland said.
Despite dozens of letter of support from people who knew Linehan in the decade after the murder, and spoke of her generosity and volunteer service, Volland said he could not offer a sentence different than the one he gave to Carlin.
“In my mind I can find no principal distinction between the puppet who pulls the trigger and the puppeteer who pulls the strings,” Volland said. “In my judgment, Ms. Linehan was the puppeteer who pulled the strings.”
Linehan showed no emotion as the sentence was pronounced. In a short statement, said she was not the monster prosecutors and the press made her out to be.
“I beg you from the bottom of my heart to allow me the chance to go back to my family as soon as I possibly can,” she told Volland.
She will be eligible for parole after serving 33 years.
Prosecutors said Linehan was inspired by a 1994 movie, “The Last Seduction,” in which a woman coaxes her lover into killing her husband for money.
Leppink had moved to Alaska from Shelby, Mich., to work in a fish tendering business. He eventually bought a boat of his own.
He met Linehan at the Great Alaskan Bush Co. and eventually moved into the south Anchorage home of Carlin and his 17-year-old son while Linehan’s house was being renovated.
In early 1996, Leppink told his parents he was engaged to Linehan, then known as Mechele Hughes. He gave her money, helped pay for renovations at her Wasilla home, and made her the beneficiary of his will and the life insurance policy, which she had purchased.
However, his feelings were tempered as his bank account diminished. Shortly before he died, he canceled an order for cabinets for Hughes’ home and named his family as beneficiaries in his will and life insurance policy. He also sent his parents a letter to be opened if he died under suspicious circumstances. The letter named Linehan and Carlin as likely suspects.
After Leppink’s murder, investigators found a note in Leppink’s car that prosecutors said was written fraudulently to lure Leppink to the trail outside Hope, a mining community 70 road miles south of Anchorage.
The top of the note was typewritten by Carlin, telling Linehan she could use his cabin in Hope. Linehan wrote out a reply, telling him not to tell anyone where she was. Instead of using the cabin, Hughes left town.
Leppink made multiple trips to Hope looking for his fiance and on one, called his parents, who suspected his life was in danger.
Leppink’s 6-foot-5-inch, 195-pound body was found by a utility worker on a trail used by a power company to reach lines along the road to Hope. He had been shot three times, including an initial contact wound to his back.
Distinctive rifling marks on the bullets indicated they were fired from a .44-Magnum Desert Eagle pistol, a kind of gun detectives found had been purchased by Carlin through a classified advertisement.
Investigators recovered e-mails from Carlin to Linehan indicating his deep feelings for her and his frustration that Leppink stood in the way of spending more time with her.
After Leppink’s death, Carlin refused to let his juvenile son, John Carlin IV, speak alone to Alaska investigators. Ten years later, the younger Carlin told investigators that his father had purchased a .44-Magunum Desert Eagle in January 1996 and that he had seen his father, with Linehan present, cleaning a handgun with bleach after Leppink’s body was found.
That proved to be a major break in the case. Another was the ability of computer experts to retrieve deleted e-mails from Linehan’s computer.
Carlin and Linehan have denied they were responsible for Leppink’s death. Neither testified.
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