Former fiance testifies in Linehan case

ANCHORAGE - The third fiance of former stripper Mechele Linehan of Olympia testified this week that he was her true love and that he considered Kent Leppink and the man accused of murdering Leppink, John Carlin III, to be fools who threw money at the young exotic dancer trying to buy her affection.

Now he looks back and thinks he must have been a fool too, third fiance Scott Hilke said.

He was used and manipulated just like the others, he said.

"It became a very, very bad part of my life," Hilke added.

Prosecutors called Hilke to the stand at Anchorage Superior Court as the second week of Carlin's trial began.

Linehan also has been charged with murdering Leppink, whose body was found off a remote road near Hope in 1996. Alaska cold-case investigators arrested Carlin and Linehan in October 2006, saying the motive might have been a $1 million life insurance policy that they thought would have made Linehan rich.

She is scheduled for trial in September. Linehan is in Olympia out of custody on conditions of release. She has pleaded not guilty to her murder charge.

At the time leading up to the slaying, the men, who were all 13 to 17 years older than Linehan, fawned over the stripper, who was in her early 20s.

They met Linehan in the 1990s, when she went by the stage name "Bobbie Jo" at the Great Alaskan Bush Co., where she could make up to $3,000 in one night by taking off her clothes and performing lap dances, Hilke said.

At the time of Linehan's arrest last year, she was a 33-year-old suburban housewife and mother, married to a physician in Olympia.

Linehan introduced Hilke to Carlin and Leppink at the club, Hilke said. All were regular customers, and all would end up living with her, sometimes under the same roof, at various points in the months leading up to Leppink's death.

Hilke, a traveling salesman for a company that manufactures steel valves, proposed to Linehan in 1994. He thought he was her only real boyfriend.

Leppink and Carlin were only customers, he testified.

When they all spent the night under the same roof, he was the one who shared Linehan's bed, not the other men, he added.

When asked what he thought Linehan was doing with Carlin and Leppink, Hilke said: "I think it was a dancer/client relationship that she was doing for economic purposes."

He did not elaborate on the specifics of what the men were paying for when they bought her fur coats or jewelry, paid her car note or funded home renovations. Men besides Carlin and Leppink also gave Linehan lots of gifts, Hilke said.