The man convicted of pulling the trigger in a bizarre decade-old murder case centered around former exotic dancer Mechele Linehan says he wants to take the stand at his Friday sentencing and plans to tell the courtroom the victim may have planned his own death.
John Carlin, 50, chose not to testify during his March trial but now wishes he did. He says he has been wrongfully convicted and is appealing the verdict.
Meanwhile, prosecutors have asked the judge to sentence Carlin to the maximum 99 years.
Carlin also says he plans to address the main piece of evidence that jurors believed made him guilty: That he washed the gun after the killing.
"The story that the prosecution has been telling about this is based on a fictitious scenario dreamed up by (the two original investigators)," he said this week from the Anchorage jail. "It's not true."
Carlin was convicted of the 1996 murder of Kent Leppink, a 36-year-old commercial fisherman who shared an affection for Linehan. The district attorney says Carlin, then 39, shot Leppink in cahoots with Linehan, then 23, so that she would benefit from a $1 million life insurance policy that she erroneously thought was in her name.
On Friday, Carlin plans to tell the court that when his teenage son found a Desert Eagle handgun in a hallway closet days after Leppink was found dead, he did something he now regrets. He knew his friend was killed with the same kind of gun. He didn't know if his gun was the murder weapon -- it was rediscovered in the closet after being missing for months, he said -- but did not want to take the risk that it was. He had undergone at least two grueling Alaska State Trooper interviews where it was clear investigators were mounting evidence against him in the case. So Carlin washed the weapon with ammonia -- a method to clean guns he learned during his four years in the Marines, he said. He then threw it out at the nearby Carrs grocery store trash can, he said.
"I wanted to make it go away," Carlin said. "I didn't trust the troopers. ... No matter what I told them, they would use it against me."
Investigators never heard this. And, they never found the gun.
Carlin and Linehan were arrested in 2006 as part of a cold-case investigation. In both of their trials last year, the prosecutor said Linehan lured Leppink into believing they would get married, took out a life insurance policy on him, then had Carlin shoot him.
THEORY ON DEATH
No physical evidence links either Linehan or Carlin to the crime, however. They were convicted on e-mail exchanges, testimony about the gun washing and other circumstantial evidence.
Carlin said the scant evidence at the Hope murder scene tended to exonerate him: Unidentifiable, lightly imprinted boot prints. Carlin weighed 40 pounds more than Leppink and says that if he was there his footprints would have been imprinted in the mud as much or more than Leppink's.
Carlin said he doesn't know who killed Leppink but wants to posit a theory to the court: What if he got a friend or stranger to kill him?
In the weeks before he died, Leppink was depressed and frustrated, according to his own e-mails. He was desperate for money. He wrote a letter to his parents days before he died predicting his own death. Carlin thinks the letter reads like a suicide note. Others have said the same.
Leppink didn't do it himself: He was shot three times.
PROTECTING THE INSURANCE
The letter tells his parents that Linehan, Carlin or Linehan's California boyfriend would be responsible for his death. He tells them to "take Mechele DOWN." He also outlines very clearly what should be done with his estate.
To be killed would be more acceptable to Leppink's Christian family, and the $1 million life insurance would still be distributed to his family as long as the cause of death wasn't suicide, Carlin said.
Prosecutor Pat Gullufsen disagrees. "This was a cold-blooded killing. It was a solicited murder, planned and premeditated," he said in court documents filed this week. "Carlin and Linehan made a calculated decision that (Leppink) should die, that he should not be allowed his life and all that goes with it."
"There is no indication that Carlin has any remorse for this most serious crime."
Find Megan Holland online at adn.com/contact/mholland or call 257-4343.