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Kent Leppink died by gunshot in 1996. His former fiancée, Mechele Linehan, was convicted of murdering him, but the judgment was reversed on appeal. After originally being sentenced to 99 years in prison, Alaska prosecutors ultimately decided against indicting Linehan a second time for the murder.
Kent Leppink was a Michigan native who moved to Alaska to work as a fisherman. He met Linehan at a striptease club. Between 1994 and 1996, Linehan was romantically involved with Leppink and a man named John Carlin at the same time. For several months the three lived in the same house in Anchorage. On May 2, 1996, Leppink (age 36) was found dead in Hope, Alaska, with three .44 caliber bullet gunshot wounds. Linehan was arrested over 10 years later in October 2006 and convicted of his murder, but the verdict was overturned.
At trial, Linehan was accused of conspiring with John Carlin to kill Leppink. The government said that Linehan's motive was that she was the beneficiary of Leppink's $1 million life insurance policy. Leppink changed the beneficiary on the policy a few days before his death.
On October 22, 2007, Linehan was convicted of murder. On April 2, 2008, she was sentenced to 99 years and transferred to Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River, Alaska. Carlin had also been convicted of murder in April 2007. He was found bludgeoned to death in his cell at the Spring Creek Correctional Center in Seward, Alaska, on October 27, 2008. His conviction was set aside on December 12, 2008, because he died before he could complete his appeal.
On February 5, 2010, the Alaska Court of Appeals overturned Linehan's conviction. The court concluded it was improper for the trial court to allow two pieces of evidence into the trial: testimony about the movie, The Last Seduction, and a letter written by Leppink in the days before he died. The letter, which Leppink wrote to his parents, said Linehan, Carlin, or Scott Hilke were "probably" responsible if he died under "suspicious circumstances".
Until May 11, 2010, Linehan was incarcerated at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River. On April 28, 2010, a judge set as a condition of her bail a $250,000 appearance bond. On May 11, 2010, an east coast corporate executive, Brian C. Watt, from Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, donated the money necessary to release Linehan from prison, paying a $25,000 bail bondsman fee.
On December 13, 2011, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Philip Volland dismissed the murder indictment against Linehan. In his ruling, Volland wrote:
The Court of Appeals repeatedly stated that the "letter from the grave" "appreciably affected" the jury's verdict at Linehan's trial. If it did so at a trial where the evidence was contested, defense counsel present, and the jury given an even stronger limiting instruction on the use of the letter, this court cannot find that Betsy Leppink's repetition of Kent Leppink's accusatory statement in the letter was not a decisive factor in the grand jury's decision to indict. Therefore, the indictment should be dismissed.
On August 6, 2012, Alaska prosecutors announced they would not indict Linehan again.
Also in 2009, Linehan's case was profiled on Investigation Discovery on the series 48 Hours on ID. The episode was named "Love and Death in Alaska".