Mechele Linehan, Ex-Stripper Accused of Alaska Murder, Released by Judge, Returns to Olympia

Sixteen years after she allegedly killed her Alaska fiance, is Mechele Linehan free to resume life as the soccer-mom wife of an Olympia doctor? The saga of the ex-Alaska stripper has been repeatedly told in print and TV reports - how she was convicted and sent to prison for 99 years, then exonerated, only to be re-accused and held again. But this week Linehan was told by an Anchorage judge she could go home again.

It's the first time since her arrest in 2006 - ten years after she allegedly engineered the slaying - that Linehan has been allowed to travel freely, the Anchorage Daily News notes, adding:

Though prosecutors are still considering an attempt to re-indict Linehan, 39, for the 1996 murder of Kent Leppink, Superior Court Judge Larry Card ordered the bail and court-ordered conditions keeping her in Alaska dismissed. Card's decision to exonerate her bail was largely a formality after prosecutors failed to re-indict her by the previously agreed-upon Tuesday deadline.

Linehan made no comment after leaving court while her husband, Dr. Colin Linehan, an Olympia family practitioner, briefly jostled with a TV photographer before the couple disappeared into an elevator.

In the decade between the murder and her indictment, the ex-stripper made a new life as wife and mother. She has always maintained she played no criminal role in the homicide that involved two former lovers as victim and killer.

But at her 2007 trial, jurors were shown what some called a "letter from the grave," written by Leppink to his parents, that said authorities should "Take Mechele DOWN. Make sure she is prosecuted," if he was found dead.

Prosecutors contended that Linehan persuaded one of her former lovers, John Carlin III, to kill boyfriend Leppink, an Alaska fisherman, to gain as much as $1 million from Leppink's life insurance policy. (Carlin, convicted of killing Leppink, was later killed in prison). Carlin's son also claimed he saw his father and Linehan cleaning a handgun that police said was the murder weapon.

An appeals court overturned Linehan's conviction in 2010, after she'd served 31 months, concluding that the introduction of Leppink's letter as evidence and the courtroom screening of parts of a movie, "The Last Seduction," should not have been allowed by the judge.

Plans to retry Linehan are apparently being stymied by Carlin's son, who is no longer cooperating with prosecutors. Says Linehan's lawyer, Cynthia Strout: "Her life has been on hold for five years under this [re]indictment that was grossly unfair."

But, Alaska assistant attorney general Paul Miovas told the News, "I don't think, at this point, we know what the final conclusion is."

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