"People act consistent with their natures," defense lawyer Marcy McDannel said. "She's the only one in this trial that has the nature capable of executing this cold-blooded, nasty act."
McDannel told jurors in her closing argument that her client, John Carlin III, is not guilty of the murder even though he may have helped clean the weapon in the days following Leppink's shooting death near Hope.
She urged the jury, which was given the case Friday afternoon and will begin deliberations Monday morning, to consider all of the evidence from the three weeks of a trial that has painted Linehan as a manipulative gold digger with a temper.
Carlin, now 50, was a fiance of Linehan's in 1996 and so was Leppink. Carlin, who has been in jail since October, is charged with killing Leppink so that Linehan could get $1 million from an insurance policy on Leppink's life.
Also facing a murder charge, Linehan is scheduled for trial in September.
Arguing for a guilty verdict on Friday, prosecutor Pat Gullufsen said Carlin was obsessed with Linehan and would do anything for her, including leading Leppink to an area near Hope and shooting him at close range three times.
In a summation that relied heavily on e-mails that prosecutors claim point to a motive and to a conspiracy, Gullufsen urged jurors to use common sense in analyzing the mostly circumstantial evidence against Carlin. He outlined his motive for murder and suggested the defendant had the murder in mind weeks before the May 1996 shooting.
"Kent's death is what Mechele wants," Gullufsen said. "And John was willing to make it happen."
Gullufsen showed jurors e-mails between Linehan and Carlin that detailed their devotion to each other and made vague references to future getaways and dealing with the problem of Leppink. One e-mail from Linehan to Carlin mentioned escaping to the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean.
Prosecutors say Linehan never had any intention of marrying Leppink. She was just trying to squeeze him dry of his money and only had her eyes on the life insurance payout.
"Kent is getting to be problematic. He's getting to be snoopy and starting to look into things," Gullufsen said, of the days leading up to Leppink's death.
But Linehan wouldn't get her own hands dirty with killing him and persuaded Carlin to do it for her, he argued. So Carlin lured his roommate Leppink to Hope by making him believe Linehan was staying there in a remote cabin.
The pair got out of their vehicle along the Hope Road and started hiking up a path under a powerline, Gullufsen said. Carlin pulled out the gun and shot Leppink three times, he said. Carlin then returned to his parked vehicle and drove back to Anchorage.
But McDannel told jurors the prosecution had created a theory not supported by evidence. She said Alaska State Troopers, eager for an arrest in the cold case, focused on her client and Linehan and failed to properly investigate other likely suspects.
Her client was friends with Leppink, who commiserated with him in e-mails over what Linehan was doing to both of them. They were friends who watched TV and hung out together. In one e-mail from Carlin to Linehan in the days before Leppink's death, he talks about getting dinner or seeing a movie with the victim.
"If there was a murder plot to kill him, why would they be talking so normally about future plans?" McDannel asked the jury.
"He clearly has no knowledge of Mr. Leppink coming to an untimely end."
Carlin, she said, who had recently won a $1 million medical lawsuit, didn't need the money. In fact, Carlin knew Linehan was only in his life for his money. By making Linehan wealthy, he would be removing her dependence on him, she said.
McDannel argued that the most likely scenario of how Leppink was killed was that Linehan shot and killed him in a cold-blooded rage. The couple's financial and trust troubles, discussed in e-mails between the two, were coming to a head. Linehan was spending Leppink's money and kept asking for more. And while he wanted to pin down wedding plans, she continued to be evasive.
Daily News reporter Megan Holland can be reached at email@example.com.