A former stripper-turned-soccer-mom convicted of plotting to kill her former fiancé 12 years ago was sentenced Wednesday to 99 years in prison.
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.
Carlin was sentenced in January to 99 years in prison for firing the shots that killed Leppink.
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."
Judge likens her to a ‘puppeteer’
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.
Dozens of people who knew Linehan in the decade after Leppink's murder wrote letters supporting her, mentioning her generosity and volunteer service. But Volland said he could not offer a sentence different from 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, she 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's body was found by utility workers on the ground near a lonely trail in Hope, more than an hour's drive from Anchorage. He had been shot three times with a .44 Magnum. Prosecutors say Linehan and Carlin had lured him to the desolate mining community by using a fictitious note that Leppink found, saying Linehan was holed up in a cabin. The cabin didn't exist.
Carlin and Linehan have denied they were responsible for Leppink's death. Neither testified.