Crime

Man In Jail For Killing Son Now Charged With Wife’s Murder

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht

A New York man serving 15 years to life for the murder of his son is now facing charges for killing his wife in California 17 years earlier.

Karl Karlsen, 54, was charged with first degree murder Friday in the Jan. 1, 1991 death of his wife, Christina Karlsen. Karlsen was convicted of killing their 23-year-old son Levi Karlsen in 2008.

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In 2013, Karlsen pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. He admitted he rigged a truck so it would slip off a jack and land on top of Levi while he was working on it.

Prosecutors argued that Karlsen killed his son to collect a $700,000 life insurance payout.

Christina was found dead after a fire at the family home in California. Her death was initially ruled an accident.

His family always suspected he was behind her death.

"We knew what he had done to our mother, and I knew what he did to my brother," his daughter Erin Karlsen told “20/20” in a 2013 interview.

Erin was six when she, Levi and their sister Katie escaped the fire at their home.

"I didn't understand that my mother was behind that wall dying," Erin said, adding that her father "didn't make an effort to save her. He just stood there."

Karlsen collected a $200,000 life insurance payout after her death. The family left California after the fire and moved to upstate New York where Karlsen eventually remarried.

His second wife Cindy told police she thought her now-estranged husband might be a killer and investigation into Christina’s death was reopened.

Police said Karlsen started the 1991 fire in the bathroom with kerosene. Christina was trapped inside and the bathroom window was boarded up with 17 nails.

If convicted, he could face the death penalty.

A new trial date in California has not been set.

Sources: ABC News, New York Daily News

Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Ada Be