Murder prosecution wraps up cold case

Posted: Wednesday, March 28, 2007

ANCHORAGE - Prosecutors this week plan to wrap up their case against John Carlin III, who is accused of killing his roommate a decade ago at the urging of an Anchorage stripper who had promised marriage to both men.

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The defense then gets a turn presenting a case largely based on circumstantial evidence. Criminal charges were filed after the Cold Case Unit of the Alaska State Troopers investigated.

Kent Leppink's body was found near Hope in May 1996. He had been shot in the cheek, back and front. No weapon was ever found and no physical evidence ties Carlin or the stripper, Mechele Linehan, to the crime scene.

Prosecutors have focused much of their case on Linehan's character. They've called witnesses who described her as a woman who manipulated men for money. Linehan is scheduled for her own murder trial in September.

According to witnesses at Carlin's trial in Anchorage, Leppink had a $1 million insurance policy with Linehan as the beneficiary, although Leppink changed the beneficiary just before his death.

Prosecutor Pat Gullufsen told jurors that Carlin would have done anything for Linehan because he was so in love with her.

Defense attorneys Marcy McDannel and Sidney Billingslea said at least two other men were equally smitten and had just as good a reason to kill Leppink.

The prosecution said Carlin and Linehan tricked Leppink into going to Hope so he could be ambushed. The defense said Carlin was in Anchorage when the murder occurred.

Linehan, Carlin and Leppink were friends in the months leading to Leppink's death. They all lived at Carlin's South Anchorage home, along with Carlin's teenage son.

Leppink was worried that she was cheating on him with someone, witnesses testified. Linehan and Carlin used this suspicion to lure Leppink to his death, according to the prosecution.

At the end of April 1996, Linehan went to California to visit another lover. She and Carlin are accused of leaving a note for Leppink to find, saying she was going to Hope. Suspicious, Leppink showed up in Hope on April 27 and showed a photograph of Linehan, trying to find her, according to witnesses.

Prosecutors have not explained the time lapse between Leppink's arrival in Hope and the killing. They also have not explained how he got to Hope. Leppink's car was found after his death, parked at the Anchorage house, and his car keys were found on his body. According to testimony by Carlin's son, the car was at the Anchorage house the entire time in question.

Carlin's son also testified he saw Leppink watching TV with Carlin at the house after the trip to Hope.

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