Photo by the Anchorage Daily News Mechele Linehan of Olympia was engaged to both the alleged shooter and the victim.
[UPDATE: A Superior Court judge shot down the idea this afternoon.]
Strip club owners may not have the most sterling of reputations. As Rick Anderson has detailed in his coverage of local magnate Frank Colacurcio, the guy was known for sexually assaulting his staff, propositioning job applicants, and charging dancers exorbitant "rent."
But at least one club owner in our neighboring state to the north seems to have a rather softer spot for the ladies in in his industry. In fact, the Anchorage Daily News reports, he's offered up one of his properties as collateral to help free from state prison an Olympia woman he's never met--a former stripper accused of murdering one of her customers.Mechele Linehan was found guilty in 2007 of conspiring to murder Kent Leppink, a fisherman, and strip club patron, who was obsessed with her. The motive, apparently, was to collect on a $1 million insurance policy. She was sentenced to 99 years in prison.
But the Alaska Court of Appeals threw out that conviction in February, saying the trial judge had made errors. Linehan is now scheduled to go trial again--with the same judge presiding!--but remains behind bars because, after her expensive appeal, she can't afford the $25,000 she would need to post bail. Her husband, a family practice doctor in Olympia, recently filed for bankruptcy, the Anchorage paper says.
Enter 67-year-old Terry Stahlman, owner of the Showboat Show Clubs in Fairbanks and Anchorage. Touched by Linehan's story (she was convicted on circumstantial evidence alone), he's offered to put up his Big Timber Motel in downtown Anchorage as collateral to get the former stripper sprung. And he says he wants nothing in return.
"Knowing dancers the way I do know dancers -- I've had 5,000 of them work for me over the last 20 years -- I have a strong gut feeling that this woman is innocent of murder," he told the Anchorage Daily News.
Linehan was, at different times, engaged to both the murder victim and the trigger man. The latter individual is also dead: He was killed in prison soon after his conviction.
Said Stahlman of the men in the case: "They're all madly in love with what they perceive up there on the stage, which is an illusion. That's not the person that she is at all. I think the real Mechele Linehan is what we see down there in the state of Washington."
And if Stahlman has his way, we'll see her down here again soon.