Olympia woman charged in murder allowed to return home

Olympia woman charged in murder allowed to return home
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA - A judge has reduced bail for a former exotic dancer charged in a scheme to murder her fiance 10 years ago, allowing her to return to Washington state until her January trial.

Judge Larry Card on Friday lowered Mechele Linehan's bail amount from $500,000 to $150,000.

Linehan has pleaded not guilty to murder charges in the 1996 death of Kent Leppink, whose body was found in the woods near Hope.

Linehan's husband, Dr. Colin Linehan, immediately put up $150,000 cash so she could be released, according to their attorney, Kevin Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald successfully argued that his client was not going to flee and "has an interest in defending her good name."

Prosecutor Pat Gullufsen opposed the release, saying someone who faces life in prison should not be allowed to leave the state.

During the hearing, the victim's father, Kenneth Leppink, spoke by telephone from his Michigan home opposing the release.

"Through all this, my son seems to have be forgotten, and the accused has taken the limelight as if nothing has ever happened," he said.

Until her trial, Mechele Linehan will be wearing an ankle monitor in Olympia, Wash. Her husband and a co-worker have pledged to look after her, and could face imprisonment if she flees and they do not notify police immediately, Card said.

Mechele Linehan, also known as Michele Hughes, left Alaska shortly after the May 1996 slaying of Kent Leppink.

According to prosecutors, Linehan was engaged to three men in 1996 when one of them, Leppink, was killed. No one was charged for the murder until earlier this month when Linehan and another one of her fiancDes at the time - John T. Carlin, now 49 and a Department of Transportation worker from Elmer, N.J. - were arrested.

Alaska State Troopers say Hughes and Carlin schemed to kill Leppink, a Michigan man from a well-to-do family who came to Alaska to commercial fish. According to prosecutors, the motive may have been a $1 million life insurance policy payout.

Prosecutors say Hughes took out a $1 million life insurance policy on Leppink and persuaded him to transfer his commercial fishing business boat and real estate into her name.

However, Leppink changed the beneficiary on the policy to his father. Days before his slaying, Leppink mailed his father a sealed envelope to be opened if he died. The letter predicted why he might have been killed and who did it. He named Hughes, Carlin, and a third man, who has not been charged.

Prosecutors said they can trace the murder weapon to Carlin and Hughes.

A breakthrough in the case came when Carlin's son told investigators he saw his father cleaning a handgun with bleach shortly after Leppink disappeared. He said he believed his father killed Leppink.