Judge relaxes bail rules for murder suspect Linehan

Megan Holland

Mechele Linehan is being released from house arrest and will be allowed out and about in Anchorage with an ankle bracelet tracking her movements as she awaits her second murder trial.

At a Wednesday court hearing, Linehan asked for and got more freedoms while on bail, including the right to be alone and not always in the presence of a court-approved custodian.

Also at the hearing, prosecutor Pat Gullufsen, who has been central to the case since Linehan and co-defendant John Carlin were arrested in 2006, said he is retiring and handing it over to prosecutor Paul Miovas.

Linehan had recently asked for relaxed bail terms so that she could work. But while Superior Court Judge Philip Volland approved getting rid of the third-party requirement, he wanted more details about Linehan's proposed job as a receptionist at a hair salon before approving it.

Volland also denied Linehan's request to drive, said she must always be at her one-bedroom apartment after 9 p.m., and required her to provide a weekly schedule of where she will be at all times.

Linehan will have to pay for the ankle bracelet service, a service that can cost upwards of $400 a month. Linehan has said she wants a job to help pay for it; her family is bankrupt.

Linehan is awaiting her second trial. She is accused of killing Kent Leppink in 1996. The guilty verdict from her first 2007 trial was thrown out by the Alaska Court of Appeals, which ruled she did not get a fair trial. She has been out of prison on bail since mid-May.

When Volland first set Linehan's bail conditions a couple months ago, he ordered the 37-year-old from Olympia, Wash., to be on house arrest in Anchorage for all but two four-hour blocks a week. Because she always had to be within sight or sound of a court-approved third party, that meant her third parties were essentially under house arrest.

Now Defendant Monitoring Services, a local company that rents out global positioning system ankle bracelets, will watch over Linehan for the court.

Gullufsen opposed the change in bail conditions saying that the court would be losing its ability to have an actual person watching Linehan.

Leppink's father, Kenneth Leppink, participated in the hearing over the phone and also urged the court to keep the leash on Linehan tight.

"She is a super candidate to run," he said. "To put this type of a tether on her, there's just gaps that you are just not covering here at all. She is a prisoner and she was in prison for first-degree murder. This is not play-games time."

Volland said he wasn't pleased with Linehan's lawyers changing their proposal for the bail conditions.

"In some ways, you know, I feel a little deceived," the judge said. "I was given a proposal that I thought I largely approved; that the defendant and her family thought was going to work, and now, just a couple of months later, I'm told it's not working at all. That bothers me."

But, he said, he believes Linehan is motivated to show up for trial, and that made him more comfortable with the new arrangement.

"My sense of the situation is that if Ms. Linehan fled the jurisdiction it would be tantamount to admitting guilty to the charges, something I see -- either because of pride or her innocence -- she is unwilling to do," Volland said.

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By MEGAN HOLLAND
mholland@adn.com