John Carlin talked for an hour at his sentencing Friday, proclaiming his innocence and offering a detailed rebuttal of the state's case against him. But he failed to sway the judge, who sentenced him to the maximum 99 years in prison.
Charged as the shooter in the 1996 murder of Kent Leppink -- with whom he shared amorous attentions toward Mechele Linehan, a one-time exotic dancer -- Carlin was convicted of first-degree murder by a jury last year. He chose not to testify in his own defense during the trial.
In handing down the sentence, Judge Philip Volland said Carlin committed "a deliberate, cold-blooded homicide for money." Linehan, who was convicted by a second jury, is in jail and scheduled to be sentenced in March.
"Kent's death was the most hell-like experience of my life," said the victim's mother, Betsy Leppink. "I do not think Mr. Carlin should be allowed the freedom to make that ugly choice again." She asked the judge for the maximum sentence.
Carlin, 50, will be eligible for parole when he is 83 years old.
Prosecutors say Carlin and Linehan conspired to murder Leppink for a $1 million life insurance payout they wrongfully thought would go to her.
No physical evidence linked Carlin or Linehan to the crime scene. Juries convicted them based on e-mails that showed the relationships of those involved, Carlin's washing of a gun afterwards, and a handwritten note from Carlin and Linehan that likely lured Leppink to Hope, where he was murdered.
During his statement to the court, Carlin tried to poke holes in some of the main points in the case against him, including the motive prosecutors offered. Carlin said he knew the money would not go to Linehan because Leppink had told him so.
He described Leppink, a commercial fisherman a couple of years younger, as a friend who was intelligent, funny and a good man. After Leppink died, though, it became clear he had been depressed, broke, disturbed and frustrated. "His whole life was crashing down around him," Carlin said.
Leppink told his family that he was marrying the beautiful Linehan. He exaggerated their friendship into a romantic one. Linehan, who was 23 at the time, didn't stop him. She let him shower her with gifts but never engaged in sexual relations with him. Leppink even fabricated love letters from her, according to Carlin. Leppink showed the letters to his family to boast about their relationship.
Carlin wonders if Leppink got someone to kill him in Hope and, in a final act of revenge, blame Linehan, who spurned him, and Carlin, her close friend, who lied on her behalf to thwart Leppink from following her on trips to see her boyfriend in California.
Carlin addressed other points, including that police failed to investigate multiple leads, such as the whereabouts of other potential suspects.
Carlin's attorney, Sidney Billingslea, described her client as a kind, quiet New Jersey steelworker who came to Alaska in the mid-1990s because it was his wife's dying wish. He invited Linehan, her boyfriend at the time and their roommate Leppink to be guests at his large South Anchorage home because they needed a place to stay while Linehan's home was renovated. Carlin was also lonely, having just dealt with the long illness and death of his wife.
"His house was suddenly filled with people and pets," she said. There was life all around him, and he liked it.
Billingslea said her client's actions after the murder were those of a scared man, not a guilty one. Carlin has admitted to washing and disposing of a gun -- the same make as the murder weapon, which was never found. The Alaska State Troopers were ignoring other leads and only mounting evidence against Carlin, she said.
Carlin regrets not taking the stand during the trial, she said. He and his defense lawyers didn't think it was necessary given the evidence against him, she said.
Billingslea pleaded for leniency.
"We know for a fact that innocent people are convicted by juries in America all the time," she told the judge before he delivered his decision. "We know this lately because DNA science has revealed some of these innocent people. ... But what about the cases where there is no DNA? What about the purely circumstantial cases like this one?"
She asked the judge to consider "the exceptional lack of proof" in the case.
Carlin plans to appeal. Linehan's lawyers have said the same.
Find Megan Holland online at adn.com/contact/mholland or call 257-4343.
MURDER TRIALS: Complete coverage of the Linehan and Carlin convictions for murdering Kent Leppink, plus a jailhouse interview with Carlin.