ABC’s ’20/20’ retraces the decade-old murder cases of Christina Karlsen and Levi Karlsen that were shrouded under the tragedy of recurring bad luck. However, bad luck might not exactly prevail when it is met with sound logic, which turned out to be instrumental in solving these cases and putting them to rest. Though the family will forever be haunted by what happened, they did manage to get some closure for the years of unimaginable loss and helplessness they felt, especially at the hands of Karl Karlsen who allegedly disguised it under ‘accidents.’
Who is Karl Karlsen?
Karl Karlsen lived with his wife Christina Karlsen and their three children in Calaveras county. On New Year’s Day in 1991, their house was enveloped in flames. Karl Karlsen managed to save his three children but later stated that he was unable to save his wife’s life. Christina Karlsen, thus, died in the house fire. He was almost acclaimed a local hero for going into the fire to save his children. In any case, nobody found anything particularly suspicious at the time, except for Christina’s sister, Colette Bousson. However, she stated that the police officers ruled it as an accident, and before any sense could be made of the whole thing, Karl Karlsen left with his children to New York. He had also cased in on his wife’s insurance policy of $ 200,000.
Subsequently, he got married to Cindy Best. His children grew up, and his daughters were not exactly convinced of their mother’s ‘accidental death,’ and they state it explicitly in ’20/20.’ However, according to them, Karl’s son, Levi Karlsen, was clearly misunderstood as a teenager, and as an adult, he was trying to turn around things to be a responsible father for his children. Levi Karlsen had married Cassie Hohn, with whom he had two daughters. The couple, however, got divorced five years into their marriage. Around the time of his death, Levi was working odd jobs for his father. In November 2008, Levi was crushed under his father’s truck while he was repairing it. It was initially ruled as an accident as it slipped from a single jack and landed on him. However, everyone in the family began having their own suspicions regarding the death of Levi.
The police authorities found it odd that just 17 days prior to Levis’s death, Karl had made him take an insurance policy for himself. Furthermore, he made himself the sole beneficiary of the policy if anything was to happen to Levi. The policy was notarised on the day of Levis’s death. When asked about this, Karl allegedly stated that Levi did it because he trusted him to take care of his daughters. As far as his wife’s insurance money goes, he simply stated that he did not trust her with the money. Karl received a payout of $ 700,000 after Levi’s death. The investigators found out that Karl had taken an insurance policy for his former wife just 19 days prior to her death. This was a major turnabout in the case. Further investigation found out that the fire was by no means an accidental one.
By 2012, Cindy Best began to have grave doubts about her husband’s intentions, and she began to fear for her own life, being at the end of a hefty insurance sum herself. She confided her suspicions to the police and agreed to wear a wire while talking to her husband. The first time, there were technical issues that prevented the wire from recording the confession accurately, and the second time, Karl was heard talking about his son’s death as an ‘opportunity.’ He further stated that he took advantage of the situation. He was then taken for interrogation, where he more or less admitted the partial truth.
Charges and Conviction
Karl Karlsen was arrested in 2012 for the second-degree murder of his son, Levi Karlsen, and additionally, for insurance fraud. In 2013, he pleaded guilty for the second-degree murder of his son. In court, he said that he made no attempt to save his son though he knew he was alive and could probably be saved. Additionally, he also stated that the truck fell on him due to his own actions. The insurance charges were dropped as part of the plea deal. He was then sentenced to 15 years in prison.
This prompted further investigation into Christina Karlsen’s death in California. In 2014, the Calaveras County District charged Karl Karlsen with the first-degree murder of his former wife. Karlsen was thus extradited back to California. His motive was claimed to be that of collecting insurance payouts. On 3 February 2020, he was found guilty of the murder of his first wife.
Where is Karl Karlsen Now?
On 17 March 2020, Karl Karlsen was sentenced to life in prison for the first-degree murder of Christina Karlsen, without parole by Calaveras County Superior Court. It was reported that once Karlsen completes serving his prison sentence in New York for his first convicted crime, he will be moved to California, to carry out his life sentence. (Feature Image Credit: ABC 20/20)
Read More: Where is Cindy Best Today?