Thursday, July 31, 2008

Split Personality? The Stripper and The Soccer Mom.

by Lucy Puryear, M.D.

There is no such thing as a "split personality." I know, most people think it describes someone who has schizophrenia or someone with multiple personalities. Really it's a meaningless term used mostly in the media to describe someone who's generically "crazy." But in the case of Mechele Linehan née Hughes, convicted killer, it may be a term that helps us understand how a seemingly loving doctor's wife and mother of a beautiful little girl could orchestrate the murder of an innocent man who loved her.

Mechele Hughes (pictured right) was a very popular young stripper at The Great Alaskan Bush Co. There she made the acquaintance of several men who became enamored of her and showered her with expensive gifts. She was good at her job. One of her admirers, Scott Hilke, asked her to marry him and she said yes. Another man began to shower her with attention and money and he eventually moved in with her. His name was Kent Lippink. He would be murdered with two bullets to his body and one to his face. He too was engaged to be married to Mechele Hughes.

John Carlin (pictured left) was the third man intimately involved and infatuated with Mechele Hughes. When Mechele's house needed repairs he invited Mechele and Kent Lippink (pictured together, right) to move in with him and his 16-year-old son, John Carlin, IV. Mechele was engaged to Scott Hilke who was now in Washington, engaged to (so he thought and told his family) Kent Lippink, and on occasion travelling to Europe with John Carlin. This was an odd family to say the least, with Mechele, the successful stripper, at the center of it all. And then Kent was found murdered.

Fast forward to today. Mechele is now Mechele Linehan. She married Colin Linehan, a doctor, in 1998, and they had a daughter in 1999. She had friends, volunteered, and according to her husband, is a wonderful wife and mother. She has also been tried, convicted, and sentenced to 99 years in prison for her role in the murder of her "fiance" Kent Lippink. John Carlin, Mechele's former suitor, has been convicted and sentenced to 99 years in prison for pulling the trigger and killing Kent. Both deny any involvement in his death and are filing appeals.

I don't know if they are guilty or not. Both juries believed so. I invite you to review the evidence for yourself; it's fascinating and certainly is incriminating. But what is more fascinating to me is how there seem to be two Mecheles.

There's the Michele who was a professional exotic dancer and could manipulate men to fall in love with her and shower her with money and gifts. This Mechele was even able to entice another man to kill for her. (Kent had a life insurance policy with Mechele as the beneficiary that he changed a few days prior to his death.)

Then there's the respectable, upstanding Mechele, married to a doctor, loved by her friends, a model citizen. Colin, her husband, insists that it is an impossibility that the woman he loves and knows better than anyone in the world is capable of murder. He is fighting to have her released. Her friends say they know it is ridiculous to think of her as a "femme fatale," manipulating men and plotting to have them murdered.

Who is Mechele Linehan? Could she be both dangerous and a wonderful and loving woman? Is it possible that her husband is right; the woman he knows is incapable of murder? Maybe he only knows one side of her, the side she allows him to see. How could he not know he was living with someone who could kill?

In psychological terms there is a phenomena called "vertical splitting." Imagine a vertical line drawn straight down the middle of your body, from the top of your head to your feet. This leaves you with two halves, split vertically, a right and a left side. The sides are both part of you, but because you are split in half, sometimes it's easy to ignore what your left side is doing. And because your two sides aren't fully integrated, it's easy to pretend that the left hand that just stole that apple isn't really you—at least it's not part of the right side of you, the side that would never imagine stealing anything.

People use this way of functioning psychologically everyday. An easy example is the pastor who speaks from the pulpit about the evils of homosexuality but is later caught in a clandestine homosexual affair. In the pulpit he is the man he believes he says he is; righteous, moral, and a zealous follower of the Bible.

But when his desires overtake him he is able to put aside the righteous man (split off that part of himself) and allow the other part of him to be fulfilled. He is able for a moment to not think of himself as the man in the pulpit while he is engaged in activity that is abhorrent in one area of his life, but is fulfilling in another. When he is back in the pulpit he is able to ignore or split off his previous actions. And isn't everyone shocked and surprised when they find out? How did we not know? How were we all so taken in?

This happens when people have affairs, but still believe they are good spouses in good marriages, or when people lie, steal, and cheat others (think of Enron), but still go to their kids' little league games and donate money to charity. And the common denominator is that people who are able to use vertical splitting are very engaging, charming, successful, and able to make the rest of us believe they are who we think they are, or who we need them to be. When they are committing adultery or stealing, or worse, they are able to shut out the other reality of their lives and not think about who they may hurting or disappointing. It's almost as if they can believe it never happened, they never did anything wrong, and they are outraged when caught and continue to deny bad behavior.

It is quite likely that Mechele committed this crime. And it is quite likely she will never admit it, never feel remorse for it, and will continue to believe that she had a good life that never should have been interrupted by a trial.

Her husband (above, with Mechele) will most likely never believe that the woman he so loves was capable of murder and he will continue to believe that she was wrongly convicted. Her daughter will suffer for the rest of her life missing her Mommy. Kent Lippink will never have his life back because he trusted and loved the wrong woman.

Who are these people? They live next door to you and me, we work with them, we go to church with them, and some of us, like Colin Linehan, are married to them.


Jan C said...

This is a fascinating story and I don't know that the whole truth will ever be told.

I live in Anchorage where this happened and one of my clients testified during the trial. Linehan may have changed after meeting and marrying the doctor and moving to Washington, but the person she was here in Alaska was evil.

Lucy Puryear MD said...

Thanks for leaving your is indeed fascinating, and it's as if this woman indeed had two personalities;one good and one bad. We all have "bad" sides to us, after all we're human, but most of us can't "do" bad things without feeling remorse and guilt. It would be hard to go forward and lead a picture perfect life knowing what horrible things you had done in your past. Most of us wouldn't be able to sleep at night.

Robin Sax said...

I am constantly fascinated (as I am sure others are) on why people do things and how is it even possible to be as evil as some people are. I mean, we have all had that feeling of wanting to ram our cars into the bad driver in front of us, but our rational sides keep us from actually doing it. On the converse side of this issue is the whole bad things happening to good people. Oh, I could get into a bunch of rambling ethical dilemmas and philosophical debates with myself just to say, Lucy GREAT, thought-provoking post!!!

Jan C said...

I have wondered if Linehan felt comfortable letting loose the "bad" side of her personality because of our remote geographic location.

Many people come to Alaska thinking it is a place of few rules, that anything goes. Our state has some of the highest rates in the nation for suicide, rape, child sexual abuse and alcoholism. Factor in the long winter days; six months of darkness and cold, and bad things can happen.

I'm not saying that is what happened with Linehan, but it wouldn't surprise me if there was a correlation.

Lucy Puryear MD said...

Hi Jan, I think there may be some truth to that. Think of Las Vegas, which is billed as a sanctioned place to be bad and know one will find out. That does allow some people to act out in ways thay might not otherwise---it's okay, because I won't get caught, no on will know.

But, there's the rub--you'll know if you cheated on your husband, or slept with a prostitute, and you'll have to figure out a way to live with that. Most truly moral people aren't able to so readily "split off" from themselves something they've done wrong, as if it never happened.

Lucy Puryear MD said...

Please forgive my spelling, it's been a long day at the office!

Jan C said...

No problem on the spelling.

I truly don't think Linehan feels any remorse. It's as if she has rationlized her actions to the point where I don't think she feels any responsibility at all. An attitude of, "The victim deserved whatever he got." Thus releasing her from guilt. And allowing her to go on with her life as if nothing had happened. Shut the door on the past and make a fresh start.

The sad part in all this is her husband and daughter. They don't deserve what's happened. They think Michelle is innocent and what is more gut-wrenching than to have your wife and mother torn from you in what they see as a huge miscarriage of justice.

Anonymous said...

For some reason this story, although not identical, reminds me of Sarah...what's her name [Olsen ??? maybe] that was a member of SLA, arrested several years ago in Minnesota [maybe], married to a dentist with three daughters for over 20 years. I wonder how stunned her family was about her arrest and subsequent conviction. Certainly many of her neighbors didn't know of her past, but did any of her immediate family??

Anonymous said...

This aired tonight on CBS' 48 Hour Mystery. No doubt in my mind that she is guilty. Look into her eyes on video and you can see that this is not a genuine person. Glad the crime was solved.

beemodern said...

Are you a mental health specialist in Alaska? If so, I am alarmed.

This article is irresponsible because you parroted the tabloidesque coverage responsible for Ms. Linehan's conviction. Our media uncritically parroted the prosecutor and troopers and that was copied by the rest of the nation's media.

Ms. Linehan never stood a snowball's chance in hell of getting a fair trial in Alaska because the media had a field day covering her before either trial, through John Carlin's trial, and then through her own trial. Mr. Carlin hardly mattered because the press just couldn't stop reporting on the stripper turned soccer mom!

Even jury members admitted to convicting her because she'd once been a stripper, thus she was capable of manipulating men and so she probably did it! Where is critical thinking in all of this?

We did not know Ms. Linehan or anyone who knew her. We did not know anyone connected to this case. However, we followed Ms. Linehan's trial and we were horrified. All Alaskans should be frightened by what happened to both Ms. Linehan and Mr. Carlin, but especially Ms. Linehan.

Also, I've watched a couple of TV shows about this case, like 48 hours and Dateline, and they had so many details wrong that I will never again watch those shows. Viewers cannot know when we are receiving accurate, reliable information.

The case against Ms. Linehan was sexist, misogynist, and ludicrous. The prosecution had no evidence to even bring up charges. They made up a titillating story of a Lolita so sensually powerful she was able to force men old enough to have fathered her to commit unspeakable crimes. Her entire life was painted as though she'd been nothing but a low-life stripper when, in fact, out of her entire life, she was a stripper for about a year-and-a-half, in her very early 20s. She worked to save money and put herself through college. (She did not have the men she was supposedly manipulating pay her way!)

Nothing about her life matched the profile described by the prosecution. That's why it appears there were two Mechele's or that she had a split personality, because one of them was a made up fantasy!

The prosecution had no physical evidence, and trial testimony proved that the prosecution's theory was riddled with contradictory evidence. In fact, the investigators and the prosecutor ignored all the evidence in Ms. Linehan's favor and made up reasons to convict her! They did not pursue investigating at least two other logical suspects, and they ignored Mr. Leppink's own shady history and involvements.

The actual lives and behaviors of the people involved did not match the fantasy made up by Linda Branchflower, the troopers, and bought by the prosecutor. The press irresponsibly repeated everything they said about her as though it was fact rather than merely their conjecture, which is all it was.

Since Ms. Linehan's conviction, John Carlin's son said our local officials threatened and intimidated him into testifying and saying what he said. Perhaps that is why his testimony after the murder and at the two trials were all different from each other! That, too, was ignored by jury, the judge, and the prosecution.

If you really want to examine the psychology of someone twisted, examine the judge who sat through all of the testimony contradicting the claims against Ms. Linehan, then completely ignored her while she made her plea before sentencing, and ended that disgusting scene by giving her a 99 year sentence! What darkness and woman-hating motives lurk in the dark recesses of His brain?

As one can see by the comments posted to you, people believe the tabloid fodder and then add their own conjecture, but they are conjecturing based on erroneous information and from their own biases, not reality. That's why misinformation is dangerous.

Please, be more responsible when you write about these cases, because it is likely Ms. Linehan isn't the only woman who's been railroaded by a sexist, misogynist system.

For more accurate info, see c

beemodern said...

And in response to Jan and her post regarding her client: there are also people who make things up and twist the truth because they like the attention they are receiving when they find themselves in the middle of a big deal. (Read the trial transcripts to find testimonies that were contradicted by the witnesses and actual perjuries that were ignored).

I hope you do not think of or refer to people as "evil" in a professional capacity, because professional it isn't.

Just because clients tell us something does not mean it is true. Therefore, before believing everything we are told, the information should be compared to other sources. In fact, that is actually better for the clients.

Anonymous said...

This page is so slow, it ties up my entire computer

Anonymous said...

ok fine, i'll re-write it and put anon since "open id" is worthless on these blogs. in a nutshell what i posted, then got froze out and have to now re-write is this:
suppose i lived near Lucy Puryear and saw her leave her house every nite from 8-11. then the neigbors were all getting robbed between 8-11 and i managed to convince a group of brain dead people that it was Lucy Puryear that was doing all the robbing, based only on my own belief. and they believed me, out of fear and envy and ignorance. they see Lucy Puryear and her nice car and nice house and think i'm right, it must be her. then a blogger posts the story and everyone sits around saying "wow, Lucy Puryear was doing this and we never knew it, she must have a split personality, or sideways personality" call it what you want. meanwhile Lucy Puryear was doing nothing more than spending a couple hours a night watching the waves at the beach and she's not guilty of anything at all! and everyone's sitting around, talking about how insightful they all are, condeming Lucy Puryear as the local thief!

thats exactly what happened to mechele! a cold case was "solved" by an overzealous prosecuter, who spun a fairy tale that convinced a jury that she knew that mechele was guilty, and they see a beautiful girl with a beautiful life who used to be a deli counter worker, i mean a cashier, i mean,,,, o yeah, she was a STRIPPER! SHE MUST BE GUILTY!

how insightful you all are. have any of you ever loved someone then got dumped? do you know how that feels? people write songs about it, people kill over it and people kill themselves over it every single day! its the worst feeling in the world! here's a guy thats going thru exactly that! he hires someone to have himself killed, takes the life insurance money and makes his parents the beneficiaries, to pay back the money he STOLE from them, which was why he was banished to alaska in the first place, and "burns" the girl who he loves that doesn't love him back, all in one fail swoop! in fact he wrote a letter to his parents a few days before his self arrainged "murder" and specifically told them to "burn mechele" if/when he gets killed and thats exactly what they did!

and here everyone sits talking about how Lucy Puryear has so expertly written about how this poor victim (MECHELE) had 2 personalities! COME ON PEOPLE! certainly you're smarter than this! there are so many more convincing scenerios than the one that the prosecuter spun to explain what happened that there's not enough room here to write them all out! but burn mechele is exactly what they did. guilty or not, she's in jail for life (99y) and since kent couldn't have her nobody can. just the way he wanted it. how convenient that the prosecuter was able to read the mind of mechele! just be careful people, next she may decide to read YOUR mind and convince a jury that it was YOU that did something you really didnt do! mechele is a murderer? without a motive? she knew the life ins was in the parents name, it was proven in court! without opportunity? she was out of state when it happened! without even a murder weapon, or dna? or any evidence what so ever? Lucy Puryear is robbing her neigbors at night, she saw a movie about it once and liked it and has become a thief, that explains her nice car and nice house. i can prove it!

wdixon9697 said...

Family and friends keep going on and on about how they know she is innocent. Were you there? Can you read her mind? You people don't have a clue what she was like then so stop acting like it is a done deal. Plenty of criminals have family and friends that say they are innocent. That does not make it true. If you are so convinced then use all of your money and hire a really good investigator to find the truth. Just keep in mind that if the tables were turned Linehan would not do the same for you. Well at least she never showed any interest in the wrongly convicted that I know of. That is something to think about.

Anonymous said... were not 'there' either...she will be judged in the end...

wdixon9697 said...

Where do you see that I said I was there? I just don't happen to believe Linehan is innocent. And I don't think her family cares whether she is or not. They just want her out of there. Just another old ridiculous loser man who doesn't mind paying for affection bites the dust. That is how they look at it.

Anonymous said...


Since you weren't there, you don't know anyone even remotely involved in the case, and you don't know any actual details of the trial, why form an opinion? For those reasons, why do you believe what you think matters?

Anonymous said...

The donor of $25,000 is not old, and he has donated money for people in what he thought were unjust situations at least twice before.

See, you are forming baseless opinions on hogwash and then spreading them around. Not very charitable of you. Bad karma.

wdixon9697 said...

Are you that dumb? I never said the donor was old. You clown. I was talking about the men in Linehan's life back then. And you have no idea what I know or don't know. At least I am not posting anonymous like you. And why should anyone care about your opinion Einstein?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, gossip-mongers and unprofessional professionals, like the author who left this article up despite all the problems with it, guess what? Her case was overturned on appeal and the appeals court, in addition to other problems it found with the case, smacked the judge by stating the evidence against Linehan was weak circumstantial evidence strung together to make a narrative that painted her guilty, but the evidence was "hardly overwhelming." That's appeals court speak for, "What in the hell were you thinking?"

Since her conviction was overturned, it was discovered the prosecutor illegally withheld vital evidence in the two cold cases he prosecuted before his retirement, one of which was Linehan's! Furthermore, the state decided not to re-indict her because it lacks the evidence.

So, there was no evidence. The prosecutor illegally hid favorable to the defense evidence from the defense. The state has no evidence to try again. Yet this article is still up? For shame!

Readers, take note of the name because this is a professional to avoid.

Gossips, try to learn something so that you aren't part of the problem.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and Ms. Puryear, you might want to think about whether leaving this sort of drivel online will open you up to legal action from Linehan or any of her family. If I were in her position, I'd be taking a long, hard look at your site right now, given you still have all these "likely" statements about her and her husband online. She isn't locked up in the middle of nowhere for the rest of her life anymore, so she doesn't have to be anyone's victim anymore either. Something to think about.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

It is sexist, not sensual, because it targets a woman, a woman unapologetic about her sensuality, and it does so unlike men. Men are not railroaded and turned into tabloid fodder because of their sensuality. Hence, it is sexist, and it is misogynist.

I agree with previous comments, this article is unprofessional, and it is unethical to leave it up since Ms. Linehan was vindicated. The one person we do know broke the law was the prosecutor. Do a story on him!