A woman accused of an Alaska murder 10 years ago worked as a stripper in Anchorage but most recently had been a suburban mother married to a doctor in Olympia.

Share story

ANCHORAGE – A woman accused of an Alaska murder 10 years ago worked as a stripper in Anchorage but most recently had been a suburban mother married to a doctor in Olympia.


Michele Hughes, 33, also known as Mechele Linehan, surrendered to Olympia, Wash., police on Wednesday.


Hughes likely will face extradition to Alaska, authorities said.


Hughes and John T. Carlin III have been charged with killing Kent Leppink, 36, whose body was found in the woods off the Hope Highway in May 1996. He had been shot three times with a .44-Magnum pistol.


Carlin, 49, a New Jersey Department of Transportation worker, flew to Alaska this week and turned himself in at the Anchorage courthouse.


Alaska State Troopers say Hughes and Carlin schemed to kill Leppink, a Michigan man from a well-to-do family who came to Alaska to commercial fish. According to prosecutors, the motive may have been a $1 million life insurance policy payout.


Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson said Olympia police went to Hughes’ residence Wednesday morning and found her husband. Police told Colin Linehan he had one hour to find his wife and bring her to the station, Wilkinson said.


“They told him, ‘We could do this in a small way, or in a big way,'” Wilkinson said.


Hughes, her husband, and a lawyer showed up at the police station within the hour, Wilkinson said.


Neighbors in the Olympia suburb of Tumwater were surprised at the arrest.


“She’s a great gal,” said Jan Henry, who has known Hughes about a year. “She is one of the sweetest people I know. I don’t think I’ve ever been so shocked in my whole life.”


She told the Anchorage Daily News by phone that she had no idea her friend had been an exotic dancer or ever lived in Alaska.


“She’s so beautiful, though, I can see how she could be a dancer,” she said.


Henry described her friend as a stay-at-home mother with a young child who just entered elementary school. She and her husband last spring bought a $400,000 office space to set up a medical day spa that was going to offer Botox, laser hair removal, facials and massages, Henry said.


Hughes’ husband is a civilian family doctor at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, an Army spokesman said. According to public records and previous media reports, he had been in the military and served as a doctor to a Stryker brigade in Iraq.


In Alaska, Hughes worked as a stripper at the Great Alaskan Bush Company in Anchorage. She was in her early 20s and had been an exotic dancer since she ran away from her Louisiana home at age 14, according to court documents.


Prosecutors say that before Leppink’s death, Hughes was engaged to three men at the same time: Leppink, Carlin, and a third man.


Prosecutors say Hughes took out a $1 million life insurance policy on Leppink and persuaded him to transfer his commercial fishing business boat and real estate into her name.


However, Leppink changed the beneficiary on the policy to his father. Days before his slaying, Leppink mailed his father a sealed envelope to be opened if he died. The letter predicted why he might have been killed and who did it. He named Hughes, Carlin, and a third man, who has not been charged.


Prosecutors said they can trace the murder weapon to Carlin and Hughes.


A breakthrough in the case came when Carlin’s son told investigators he saw his father cleaning a handgun with bleach shortly after Leppink disappeared. He said he believed his father killed Leppink.