Olympia woman accused of Alaska murder pleads not guilty

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - A former Alaska stripper now living in Olympia pleaded not guilty Friday to a charge of scheming to murder her former fiance.

The body of Kent Leppink was found in the woods near Hope, Alaska, 10 years ago.

Mechele Linehan, 33, said nothing during the brief proceeding at the Nesbitt Courthouse. She wore standard yellow jail garb and handcuffs linking her to another prisoner. She spent most of the time looking and smiling at her husband sitting in the front row of the courtroom. Colin Linehan, a doctor, flew in from Olympia to attend the proceeding.

Judge Larry Card denied defense attorney Kevin Fitzgerald's request for a bail review. Fitzgerald has said he wants to cut Linehan's bail from $500,000 to less than $100,000 so she can go home to Olympia to await trial.

The judge instead scheduled the bail review for Monday.

When Linehan left Alaska shortly after Leppink's slaying in May 1996, she left behind the life of a Great Alaskan Bush Company stripper. When arrested this month, she was living as a stay-at-home mom of a young girl, involved with the PTA and about to open a day spa.

Colin Linehan declined an interview Friday outside the courtroom. He spent the minutes before his wife was brought into the courtroom with his head hung low, trying to avoid local and national media at the hearing.

Prosecutors say Mechele Linehan was engaged to three men in 1996 when one of them, Leppink, was murdered. Nobody was charged for the killing until last week, when she and John T. Carlin, another of her fiances, were arrested.

According to prosecution documents filed in court, authorities believe Linehan's motive behind the slaying was a $1 million life insurance payout and other assets of Leppink's, which had been transferred into his and her names.

Leppink even told investigators from his grave - in the form of a letter to his father immediately before his death - that Linehan had reason to kill him and to look toward her if he ended up dead.

The court documents say Linehan's sister called authorities shortly after the murder and said Linehan made passing remarks to her like, "he deserved it," and "too bad he wasn't tortured before he died." They also say that before the murder, Linehan was seen practicing shooting a Desert Eagle handgun at an Anchorage firing range - an unusual handgun that was the same kind authorities say was used in the murder.

Prosecutors have declined to talk about the case beyond what has been filed in court documents. More information will have to wait for the trial, they said, which is scheduled for January.