Last week, Mechele Linehan, 35, of Olympia, Washington, was sentenced to 99 years in prison for the murder of her fiancé, Kent Leppink, back in 1996.
She was accused of convincing another fiancé, John Carlin III, of New Jersey, of killing Leppink. The crime and trial took place in Alaska, and Carlin was found guilty of murder. Under Alaska law, Linehan was ruled equally guilty, so she got the same sentence as Carlin.
“I can find no principal distinction between the puppet who pulls the trigger and the puppeteer who pulls the strings,” said Judge Philip Voland. “In my judgment, Ms. Linehan was the puppeteer who pulled the strings.”
Crime based on murder movie
The case sounds just like a movie. In fact, prosecutors contend that Linehan was inspired by the movie The Last Seduction, in which a woman coaxes her lover into killing her husband for money.
Back in 1996, Linehan, then 24 years old and named Mechele Hughes, was working as an exotic dancer in Alaska. At one point, three different men believed they were her fiancé—Kent Leppink, John Carlin and Scott Hilke. The three men knew of each other. Scott Hilke had already broken up with Linehan and left Alaska.
After Leppink and Linehan became engaged, he named her as the beneficiary of a $1 million life insurance policy. So according to prosecutors, the motive, quite simply, was money.
But a week before he died, Leppink changed his life insurance policy, removing Linehan and naming his family as beneficiaries. He also sent his parents a letter inside a letter. He asked his parents not to read the second letter unless something happened to him.
By the time the letter arrived, Leppink was already dead. And here’s what Leppink had written: “Mechele, John or Scott were probably the people or persons that probably killed me. Do me another favor, make sure Mechele goes to jail for a long time.”
A few months after the body was discovered, both Linehan and Carlin left Alaska and the criminal investigation stalled. Linehan married a doctor in Olympia, Washington, had a child, and became a soccer mom.
But in 2004, the Alaska State Police formed a cold case unit. The first case they investigated was the murder of Kent Leppink.
For a comprehensive story about the case, read Love and Death in the Wild, produced by the CBS News television show, 48 Hours.
Linehan continued to claim she was innocent. “I just feel like there is nothing I can do to make people believe me or make people like me,” she said in her television interview. “A witch I may be, but a psychopath I am definitely not.“
Is she a psychopath?
So is Linehan a psychopath? In addition to being convicted of murder, other people described behavior that fits with a psychopathic personality disorder.
She was engaged to three men at the same time, which would probably qualify as having many short-term marital relationships on the Psychopathy Checklist (PCL-R). One of her fiancés, Scott Hilke, said, “I think she outsmarts most people that she gets involved with. I think she reads the situation and figures out how to recreate her personality in such a way that she will profit from that.”
The victim’s mother, Betsy Leppink, said, “Mechele Linehan is an evil lady who continues to do deeds of deception and manipulation. I fear for her next victim if she’s ever permitted to enter society again.”
But Linehan’s husband, Dr. Colin Linehan, continued to defend his wife’s innocence. According to the Seattle Times, he said Mechele Linehan is not a manipulative monster, as portrayed in the media. “Mechele’s character … has been reduced to a stereotype in a cartoon to fit a narrative that was full of lies, half-truths, conjecture and speculation,” he said.
Dr. Colin Linehan spent $35,000 on a psychiatric evaluation of his wife. Dr. Mark Mills, a forensic psychiatrist from Washington, D.C., testified for five hours at the sentencing hearing. The psychiatrist said Mechele Linehan “is unlikely to be someone who schemed or planned the murder of anybody,” according to The Olympian. The psychiatrist said Mechele Linehan does not like to be told what to do, but she is not a sociopath or psychopath.
Women can be evil
I don’t know for sure if Mechele Linehan is a psychopath. There hasn’t been much media coverage of this case, at least on the East Coast, so I don’t feel like I have enough information to make a decision. Perhaps the forensic psychiatrist, Dr. Mark Mills, is right, although it’s well-known that any psychological opinion someone wants in court can be bought.
I will say that women certainly can be psychopaths. Female psychopaths are just as deceitful, heartless, manipulative and cruel as male psychopaths. But they can play the role of “damsel in distress,” or “sweet soccer mom,” to disguise their vicious behavior.
Women are not always the fairer sex, or the weaker sex. Sometimes, women can be evil.