Sister testifies at murder trial

Sibling says Linehan told her to erase data from laptop computer

Posted: Sunday, March 25, 2007

ANCHORAGE - The older sister of a former stripper who has been charged in connection with her fiancé's murder testified Friday at the trial of a second fiance who was also charged in the slaying.

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Melissa Hughes, who testified at the trial of John Carlin III, says her sister, Mechele Linehan, told her that her former fiance, Kent Leppink, got what he deserved.

Carlin and Linehan are accused of conspiring to murder Leppink to get the proceeds from a $1 million life insurance policy, which Linehan erroneously believed would go to her.

Hughes also said that immediately after the slaying, she refused Linehan's request to erase all the information about Leppink's death from a laptop computer.

E-mails from that laptop are now key pieces of evidence for the prosecution, detailing relationships Linehan was maintaining with several men just before Leppink's death in May 1996.

Linehan had shipped her tech-savvy sister the computer, saying she had bought the computer from Leppink before his death and wanted it purged for her personal use.

Prosecutors say Linehan had already tried to delete files on the computer before she sent it to Hughes.

Hughes said that Linehan showed no remorse about Leppink's death in an angry outburst following Hughes' refusal to erase all the information on the laptop.

"She said it was too bad someone didn't torture him first," Hughes told the court. "She told me that he got what he deserved. People didn't like him and he hunted and stuffed animals."

Leppink once worked as a taxidermist, according to what other witnesses have said in the trial. Witnesses have also said Linehan had a soft spot for animals and was planning an exotic bird sanctuary in Costa Rica.

The two sisters didn't speak for years after the encounter.

Records show that Linehan sent the computer to her sister after investigators inquired about it, according to testimony this week from former trooper Steven DeHart.

Authorities seized and examined the laptop several months later from Linehan in Louisiana.

It was re-examined in 2004 with new technology. By then, investigators were able to extract e-mails that they believe show Linehan was manipulating Leppink and setting him up for murder, prosecutors have said.

The trial is scheduled to continue next week, with the prosecution expected to wrap up its case within several days.

Linehan's trial is scheduled for September.

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