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tv   2020  ABC  July 9, 2021 9:01pm-11:00pm PDT

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you wouldn't stand a chance. >> i mean, you're gone. >> he started saying, call 911. levi is dead. >> ma'am, what's going on? >> the truck fell on my stepson. oh, my god. >> his 23-year-old son, levi, dies in a tragedy. >> at first it didn't appear to be anything out of the ordinary. >> no, it appeared to be an accident. >> that was a story that played out in upstate new york. i'm from upstate new york, and i remember people consumed by this story and it only got more twisted as the years went on. >> wherever karl goes, tragedy takes place. >> it was a deja vu moment for karl. in '91 he lost his wife and his home and everything they owned.
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>> how unlucky is this guy? >> how unlucky is this guy? >> christina was trapped inside that bedroom with the fire raging just outside the door. >> it wasn't an accident. >> i heard my mother screaming. my father had said, mommy's gone to heaven. it seems like every couple years something was burning. >> a lot of people said, when this guy needed money, a family member would die. >> definitely a pattern there. first wife dies in this tragedy. levi dies in this tragedy. am i next? >> was she convinced there was a killer in her own home? >> there's erin. where's katie? >> katie, look at grandma. what's grandma arlene doing? >> hi, katie! my name is erin deroche, >> my name is katie reynolds. >> and karl karlsen is my father. >> it does seem surreal
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sometimes that this is my life. >> does this much bad stuff happen to normal people >> he lies, and he's able to manipulate people very easy. that's who he's always been, so for me, i saw the monster more than the man. >> this is a story that has really taken years to unfold. i began covering it seven years ago in upstate new york, but really no one could have imagined, no one could have predicted how this would end up. >> so, we're headed where, right now? >> 885 yale farm road, which is the karlsen residence. >> and the family is quite connected in the community, right? >> they're a well known family. they've been here for generations.
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>> my grandfather settled right here. we're a large family. karl is my brother. >> karl had five brothers and a sister, almost all of whom remain in the area. his father was a highway official in that county for almost 50 years. his brother was a town counselor. definitely a family that has a lot of connections. >> the karlsen family name has always been a very reputable name in seneca county. >> seneca county, sits between two of the beautiful finger lakes, seneca and cayuga. >> pretty much smack dab in the middle of the finger lakes region of upstate new york. we're between the cities of rochester and syracuse. >> the village of seneca falls is known for "it's a wonderful life." >> the current belief is that seneca falls was the model of the village of bedford falls in "it's a wonderful life." >> yay! hello bedford! >> when i met karl in november of 1992, he was a single dad to
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his three children. >> karlsen's first wife, christina was 30 years old when she died in a tragic fire just years before he would meet his second wife, cindy karlsen. >> he seemed like he was a hands-on dad. the youngest, katie, adored her father. erin and levi seemed like they had a special bond. >> levi was amazing. he was so creative. he was very smart, but he had a learning disability, so when it came to bringing home good grades, he couldn't because of the disability. >> levi had a difficult life growing up. levi's life was everything that you wouldn't want your kid to grow up with. he went through a rebellious time in his teenage years. and, um, him and his father seemed to clash. >> as he got older, he got into more of the metal music, and he
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kind of changed his appearance a little bit, but deep down, he was always still that same goofy kid. >> he married early. had two young daughters. the marriage didn't pan out. >> levi kind of pulled his life together. he was a good young man. he wanted to make better of his life. >> on november 20, 2008, 911 received a frantic call from cindy karlsen. >> 911. what's the location of your emergency? >> yes, i live at 885 yale farm road. >> okay. >> i think i need an ambulance. >> levi had come to the home of cindy and karl karlsen at the request of karl. >> karl told me that levi was going to come out to work on an old farm truck that we had that day. our plan was that we needed to attend my aunt's funeral. >> while levi is in the garage working under that farm truck, karl and cindy are getting ready and dressed to go to a funeral.
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>> i went and got in the passenger seat of the car, and karl had told me that, i'm just going to go out and let levi know that we're leaving. >> it was just a minute or two. and then karl came and got in the car. nothing seemed out of the ordinary. >> he and cindy leave to go to a funeral down in penn yan, new york. >> we were gone for, um, four hours. >> they return home. cindy first notices levi's car still parked in their driveway. she's kind of concerned. >> i went in the house and karl came up to the window in the door and started banging and saying, call 911. levi is dead. >> ma'am? what's going on? >> the truck fell on my step-son. >> the truck fell on your stepson? >> we just got home, and i don't think he's alive. >> you don't think he's alive? >> no. my husband's lifting up the truck. >> cindy's basically taking information she got from her husband karl and is relaying it to the 911 dispatcher. >> they want to start cpr.
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do you know cpr? >> his chest is crushed! >> his chest is crushed. >> his chest is crushed? >> there's no -- he's probably been under there for hours. oh, my god. this is awful. >> karl had pulled levi out from underneath the truck, and you could see the indentation on his, um, chest. >> the truck was jacked up by a single railroad type jack. >> this is the kind of jack that police found? >> that's similar. similar. it's a railroad jack. >> and you make for a very weak foundation. the higher it gets the weaker it gets. >> i'll never forget -- the team, we all went to this local junkyard to try to find a similar old farm truck, the weight of it, just to see what it would be like propped up on a single railroad jack.
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would you go under this pickup? >> i would never go under a truck. i don't like going underneath trucks when they're sitting all four tires on the ground. >> so you've got it jacked up here with a railroad jack. >> look at that wobbling. it's just moving. >> that's crazy. >> it really is. >> time to get clear of that -- >> you wouldn't stand a chance. >> you're gone. i mean, you're gone. >> the ambulance was there. they were just pulling levi out of the barn and putting him into the ambulance. >> when police arrive, what were the parents like? >> very distraught, very upset. crying. you know, grief stricken. >> i remember the sheriffs trying to console karl because he was so distraught. >> levi was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead. >> levi's 23 years old at the time of his death. >> at first it would appear to be anything out of the ordinary. >> no, it appeared to be an accident. >> i get a call from my niece
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that my nephew has died. >> i knew as soon as i heard that levi was gone, that he had done it. i knew with every fiber of my being. >> i said, i have no idea what he stands to gain from this. >> but it begs the question, could a father kill his own son? ♪ ♪ ♪ return to rugged. the all-new ruggedly redesigned 2022 nissan pathfinder. ♪ the all-new ruggedly redesigned 2022 nissan pathfinder. pringles original, barbecue, pizza. the barbecue pizza stack. (cheers)
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i first met karl at a line-dancing club. he told me that he could line dance.licing pane come to find out he really had no clue about line dancing. >> when cindy met karl, she sees this physically strong, good looking, successful in her mind guy that he's, unfortunately, dealt with the tragedy of his wife. in a house fire in 1991. >> what he had told me about the fire was that he was able to pull the children out. by then, the house was engulfed. >> it had been almost two years. he was heartbroken. he loved her. i felt extremely sorry for him. >> i think she was yearning for the family package. he came with a package. >> it was pretty quick. he brought her over to the house
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and introduced us. and initially it was a nice change of pace. >> for me it was, i'm going to have a mom like all the other little kids my age have. she did initially fill that void. >> cindy now is kind of the instant mother or the mother figure in their life. >> we were married in 1993. >> it turns out it wasn't so happily ever after for the karlsen kids. their life with karl, as they describe it, was filled with work, chores, discipline. >> we did the sweeping and the mopping, dusting every day. vacuuming. we cooked. >> dad would get home and cindy would go right to him right away. and erin did this or levi did this, and you need to take care of it right now. and he did. >> there were times when, if the kids really misbehaved, i would tell him he needed to talk to them, and sometimes i felt like he was overly strict with them.
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>> karl was ruling them with such a tight fist, they couldn't be kids. you always had chores to do. there was always work to do. >> he used physical labor as a form of punishment pretty consistently. one time, i don't even know what i'd done, but he wanted me to carry 10 gallon buckets full to the brim of water back and forth from the house to the barn, and he would just watch and wait for my body to physically give out. when it was levi, he would take him outside. my father told me that levi was a man, so he could take it. >> as far as physical abuse, i did not see that. he hid it well. >> levi moved out when he was 16. it became an escape for him. he needed to get out of the house. pretty soon thereafter, he had met cassie. levi was 18 when he had his
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first daughter, and then the second one came two years later. >> he got married at a young age, and their marriage did not work out. >> she was really one of the only people in his entire life that had loved him and accepted him for who he was. and losing that was traumatic for him. >> prior to levi's death, his life was on an upswing. you know, he was coming back to the farm more often. he was able to get a job with one of the factories that was in geneva. they had insurance and stuff that he needed as a father trying to support his children. >> after levi's death, the investigation was very cursory. general reports were filed. the doctor signed of on it. there was no autopsy. it gave every appearance of being an unfortunate accident. >> it was shortly after levi died that karl had told me that levi had had a life insurance policy.
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>> the life insurance policy that's taken out on levi, it's beyond bizarre. karl drives levi, his 23-year-old son to an insurance office and introduced levi to an insurance agent. >> they wanted to get an insurance policy on levi, who had two young girls, worked in a glass factory and felt there were job hazards and they felt accidental death was a possibility. >> karl convinces levi to take on a life insurance policy worth $700,000. >> i didn't realize karl actually paid the first premium. i did not know that. and he paid cash. >> when this life insurance policy's taken out, and the first payment is made, there's provisional coverage, but it's providing that the subject pass a medical exam. >> karl and levi did not tell the agent that levi had a serious swallowing disorder that made it difficult to ingest food. and that he had been treated for that disorder several years before. >> the likelihood is that new york life would have suspended
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or dropped the policy or had to rewrite it once levi's medical conditions were brought to their attention. >> levi karlsen's medical exam was scheduled for the day after he died. >> even though levi didn't make it to that medical exam, the insurance company still paid out to karl. >> dad also made a point to tell me was that levi had left a will. >> this was a handwritten note? >> yes. >> saying what? >> that his father was going to be the sole executer of his estate and dispersed the money to his kids. >> the money he said it was barley enough to cover the funeral expenses for levi. >> $700,000, that would be paying for a heck of a funeral. it turns out nobody in karl's life knew about that life insurance money other than his wife, cindy. >> when i questioned karl, why were you beneficiary? he had told me that because levi was going through this nasty divorce. >> karl made it out to be that levi didn't trust his ex-wife,
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that levi wanted his daughters taken care of and he trusted his dad. >> i didn't think it was odd because levi had worked his way back into the house a little bit more, and him and dad seemed to be getting along pretty good. >> i just trusted my husband. there was no reason for me to question anything. >> reporter: the note says all of the assets go to the father to be handed out. >> yes. >> reporter: and when was the letter notarized? >> the day of his death. >> at the time law enforcement didn't know about any of this. so, once it was ruled an accident, it seemed like it was case closed. >> it wasn't until four years later that the investigation was reopened. >> reporter: with everything that you discovered here, what then did you make of what happened to his first wife? >> suspicious. >> i went to the house the next day, and could not, for the life of me understand why somebody didn't try to get her out. it wasn't an accident.
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only at jack in the box. >> reporter: years before levi karlsen would die underneath that truck, karl karlsen would experience loss before. >> when levi died, i'm sure, i assume it was some sort of a deja vu moment for karl, that he'd been there before in '91. he had lost his wife and lost his home and everything they owned. >> there's beautiful mommy over there. >> my mom's name was christina. but everybody who was really close to her called her chris. >> i had two daughters. one was susie homemaker, and that was chris. the other one was a little sports jock. and that was collette.
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>> she was three years older than me. everybody knew i was her little sister. she didn't see bad in anyone. even though somebody could have done something horrific, she would find a way to find something positive about them. >> karl met his first wife, christina, when he was in the air force. >> she had told me she'd met a nice guy, and so i asked some questions about him. she seemed very, very excited about this particular person. and then when she told me they were getting married, you know, i wished her the best and as soon as i could get out there to see her, i got out there. >> karl worked at stone quarry in seneca county. ultimately, karl moved to california to take a job. >> he got laid off. i said, come out here to california. you always have a job out here. i made him partner in my company. >> so karl, out of the blue, just packed everybody up and he took off for california to strike it rich and famous. and that was a typical karl adventure. >> of course i'm excited because that means my sister and her kids are coming home, so i'm
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very excited. >> the karlsen family lived in the town of murphys. murphys is a gold rush era town that was settled by pioneers, miners. and it's existed here since the mid to early-late 1800s. >> it's northern california. it's quite a hike from sacramento, an hour or two. it's quiet back-country roads. >> we loved murphys. my mom would actually take us on walks and we would collect leaves and acorns and we would go on picnics. >> pennsylvania gulch road, where the karlsen family settled, was off the highway down a rural road. >> where karl and christina and their three children lived was on old mining shack, converted into a house. but it was a difficult environment. >> it was very dilapidated. but i remember when we moved in,
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gosh, my mom put in a lot of effort to get the house clean. >> she painted it, she decorated it, she sewed curtains, she was a phenomenal seamstress. >> it was amazing when my father wasn't home, but when he was home it was very tense. >> he just had a very aggressive personality. um, kind of that personality that either my way or the highway, and the highway isn't an option, so it's my way. for her 30th birthday i bought her a glamour shot. i thought this would just be the perfect 30th birthday for her. i walk into my house. he sees her. tells her, take the makeup off, you look like a -- and she went to the bathroom and took it off. >> when things would get to the point where she felt she didn't want us to witness the arguments or the fights, she would request that they go back to the bedroom. but we heard. i heard. >> there were some glaring
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things to me that i didn't like that i talked to her about. multiple times. >> according to collette, christina was getting ready to move out, take the kids with her and move in with her. just wanted to wait and get through the holidays. > christmas morning, 1990. levi, look at me please. let me get your face in this. thank you, darling. >> it was the last christmas we all had together at my mom's house. you know, opening presents. it's her being goofy. >> on january 1, 1991, it was a day kind of like any other. we were just playing around the house. >> karl's daughter, erin, recalled him taking a christmas tree out of the house and dousing it in kerosene. >> he was going to burn the christmas tree, and he wanted us to watch so he lined us up. and said that he wanted us to
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see how quickly a house could burn. and i was just shy of 7, but i assumed it was a lesson like, don't play with matches, don't play with fire. and then we went back inside. our mom got us ready to go down for our nap. >> levi was sleeping in his room. katie and erin were sleeping in their room, and christina went into the bathroom to take a bath. >> reporter: so, while karl's wife is taking a bath he says he was upstairs in the attic working on a fan before then going out to the garage. >> he walks out into the garage, which the garage is probably 50 feet. >> he's working in the shop, and it's at that point he hears his wife screaming his name. >> he comes out, looks, and that's when he sees the smoke. >> he sees flames. he sees the house is on fire. he hears christina say, karl, get the kids. >> she loved those kids, and she would have done anything for
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them. >> i heard my mother screaming. and i went to the door. it was slightly ajar so i peeked out the door. >> and at 4 years old, i don't think i really understood what was happening. but i saw down the hallway. it was engulfed in flames. >> karl says smoke is pouring out of the house, it's engulfed in flames. he goes to the up on the porch and to levi's bedroom window and breaks the window. >> karl claimed he sees his son there unharmed, so he reaches in, grabs his son by the hair and throws his 5-year-old son out of the house and to safety. >> he then goes to the other side of the house, breaks the window to the girls' bedroom. >> he was just there, and he pulled us out. >> after saving erin and katie, he said he returned to the house and tried to enter into the door, but there were too many flames.
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>> it's 1991. not everybody has a cell phone. so he leaves this fire scene. >> he decided his best next course of action would be to go seek out help. >> i had two different people come to my door and said they had heard on the scanner there was a fire at the end of penn gulch road. just walked out here in the street. i could see the smoke, and i knew where it was coming from. my first thought, just get out there. >> emergency services, fire department, and first responders respond to the scene. >> the people that were close to christina had a lot of questions about what happened that day. it's obvious that they're suspicious. >> why he didn't knock this out -- >> there was a $200,000 policy on christina. >> it's just, it's all red flags. >> it makes you wonder, just how unlucky is this guy? your mission:
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and these are all from the fire. from the house that burned. >> christina karlsen perished in the house fire. they found her doubled over outside of the tub with a rag covering her face. >> that day, i got out there and, you know, i started looking somebody directed me over to the ambulance. and when i got in the back of the ambulance, i see the whole family except for my daughter, chris. so that's when i realized what had happened. >> everybody was rushing around with a purpose, and my dad wasn't. and he was just standing there casually like it was any other day. >> there were people in california who right from the beginning in 1991, believe that
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christina's death was not accidental. >> christina karlsen's cousins went to the burnt out home and created a video. >> she took extensive video footage of the inside and outside of the house. the area where christina's body was discovered in the bathroom. >> this here is the bathroom where christina was found. >> the bathroom door was here. >> both of them evaluate the house, look through the ruins. it's obvious that they're suspicious. >> why he didn't knock this out -- >> in front of the bathroom window is a board nailed into the wall. >> most of the bathroom area is still intact. you can clearly see the boarded up window to the bathroom. >> karl's story is that a few days prior to the fire, his wife was trying to open the bathroom window, and she was using a toilet plunger and broke the window. >> karl's solution, he said, was to take a warped wooden board that he had in his shop and use
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17 nails to hammer it into the wall. >> there's no way she could have got that off. isn't there anything she could have used to get that off? >> i went to the house the next day. i asked somebody to drive me out there, and they said colette, you don't want to go out there, and i said, yes, i do. i stood in the bathroom and could not for the life of me understand why somebody didn't try to get her out. >> between the boarded up window and the fire raging right just outside the bathroom door, she was trapped. there was no getting out. >> i asked him, why didn't you get the board off yourself? and he said by the time he got around and got the kids out, the windows -- that it was too late. he couldn't get near it. >> reporter: so after the fire, karl talks to investigators, and he tells them how he thinks the fire might have started. >> karl goes on with a very elaborate story told back in
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1991 that days prior to this fire his wife brought in a five-gallon jug that was filled with kerosene. >> they used kerosene heaters inside of the house. >> they have a cat and a dog. and those animals are rough housing, which knocks over the container of kerosene. >> i do remember there being a spill on the floor. mom had towels and blankets piled up, and we were having fun climbing over the top of them. >> he had been working that day of the fire. he was working in the attic area. >> karl says he was using a trouble light up in the attic for light just before he went out to the garage. >> karl claimed that the trouble light, which either fell from the attic or which he left on the kerosene spill, likely caused the fire. >> reporter: and according to karl he said once the fire began he did what anybody would try to do, which is try to save the family. >> there are a few things that are a little fuzzy, but there are some things that i remember just like it was yesterday.
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he pulled us out through the window. he took katie and i to the truck. he told us to get down and not to look. we were kids. curiosity got the better of us, so we turned around, all of us and we just watched. >> she watched karl walk slowly to the house and not make any real attempt to break into the house and save christina, her mother. >> my father had said mommy's gone to heaven, even before the ambulances got there, the firefighters, while we're sitting in the truck. we didn't understand of course the gravity or what it really meant but we knew so we were all really quiet. >> christina's death is ruled an accidental death. the actual physical cause of death of christina karlsen was smoke inhalation, which indicates that the fire was not on top of her. >> we just flew to california as soon as we could get there. he was very stoic, emotionless. and he just said, i want to go
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home. meaning new york. and at the time it made sense. >> in four days, they had everything taken ty re gfore shw even laid to rest. >> if you really were that concerned about everything that happened, you would stay around and you wouldn't be avoiding talking with detectives or the fire marshal. >> carl kent, who was the investigator for the california department of forestry, had a lot of questions about the cause and who started this fire. >> i was requested to come to a fire scene. i thought the circumstances of the fire were suspicious. there was concern that something wasn't right. >> and it didn't help that karl had taken out an insurance policy on christina just weeks before the deadly fire. >> karlsen went to an insurance
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agent and bought $200,000 policy on his wife. >> the fact that the policy was purchased 19 days before christina's death, i think, rang the alarm bells in the head of state farm insurance. >> state farm brought in ken buske. >> typically i'm hired by an insurance company to answer what the cause of the fire is. >> the story they related to me, at least initially, made sense as a story -- that the hot bulb from the trouble light could ignite the kerosene soaked into the carpet. >> reporter: but you know, when that investigator looked at this severely burned light, he was able to determine that the filament had not been energized at the time of the fire, meaning the light was not on. >> if a bulb is off, of course, it's not apt to be the cause of a fire. mr. karlsen's story simply couldn't have been true. >> so ken buske turns his report into the insurance company telling them he's convinced that this was no accident. >> this was a set fire by a human being. well, we clearly know there was only one human being capable of
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starting that fire. >> but for whatever reason, that report didn't stop the insurance company from paying out the claim. >> karl was paid $215,000, and it was not explained why their recommendation to not have him be paid out was overlooked. >> the insurance company did a very good investigation. law enforcement, it didn't seem, was doing anything. >> i never saw mr. buske's report. i didn't know who mr. buske was. >> it just seemed like when karl moved to new york a few days after the fire, it's like everything stopped and there wasn't much follow-up. >> i asked if they would front the moneys for me to travel back there and interview him. >> carl kent wanted to go to new york to interview karlsen in person, but his superiors turned him down, saying that there just wasn't enough money for that kinda trip. >> the d.a.'s office said it was
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a good circumstantial case, but there wasn't enough to prosecute at that time. i was hoping something would happen, but somewhere after maybe the 15th year, i was beginning to think somebody got away with murder. >> all these years later, with his 23-year-old son levi dead, there are people who start to wonder, "did he get away with murder not once, but twice?" >> reporter: you get a phone call. >> i was asked if we had investigated an accident involving levi karlsen's death. >> do you remember the call to this day? >> oh, yeah. >> cindy's concerned now first wife dies in this tragedy, levi dies in this tragedy. am i next?
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>> time marched on. karl collected a large insurance policy on levi. >> if i had known that there was an insurance policy, i would have gone straight to the sheriff's department. approximately $700,000. he claimed that this money was going to be used for levi's children, his grandchildren. >> levi's insurance money is being spent by karl and cindy, not levi's children. >> reporter: what were they spending money on? >> well, it looks like a lot of money went to a duck business, a gourmet duck business. >> it was just another one of karl's daydreaming ideas, get-rich-quick schemes. >> the idea was he was gonna raise gourmet ducks to sell to restaurants. >> but what happened is karl started right away ordering more ducks. >> we went from raising 10, 20 gourmet ducks to thousands. i mean, duck feed for thousands of ducks costs a lot of money.
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>> he doesn't know really what he's doing. he's just bailing water. it's losing money left and right. >> dad and cindy, their finances weren't making sense to me. there was also new vehicles quite frequently. >> they would constantly be going on vacations. >> i finally confronted her and i -- you know, i said, what is going on here? this doesn't make sense. but she just denied everything. >> karl is the person responsible for spending the bulk of that money, and he kept cindy in the dark. >> at this point he's keeping me blind. he doesn't want me to know anything. because he knows i questioned everything. he's just going to do what he wants to do and that's just how it was with karl. >> reporter: cindy karlsen told us that it was about two years after levi's death that she actually started to grow suspicious of the man she was married to. >> there was not one thing that, that i just said, "oh my god, he did it." it happened over time.
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i would have these panic attacks. i would be in my living room and say, "oh, my gosh. did he have something to do with levi's death?"aid he rashe conv .e >> cindy karlsen says that during this time, she was so terrified of her husband, she started sleeping with a knife under her bed. and finally, she just had to move out. >> at the end, when there was very little money left and karl kept spending and spending and spending, yes, i took some money because i needed to keep myself alive. i had nothing left, and i'm scared. >> she is concerned enough that she hires a private detective to look into it. >> it was self-preservation. she probably was concerned for her life when she realized that there was a policy on her. >> a private investigator started digging in and figured
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out i would be worth $1.2 million to karl if i was dead. one night, i had called my cousin and told her my fears. "i think carl might have killed levi." she said, "why would carl kill levi? there's nothing for him to gain from that." and i said, "yes, there was. he gained $700,000." >> cindy's cousin, jackie hymel, called in a concern that she had to the police. >> reporter: and you get a phone call. and what are you told? >> i would ask if we'd investigated an accident involving levi karlsen's death. and i looked it up. >> this family member's got some suspicions, concerned that things just aren't adding up. wherever karl goes, tragedy takes place and financial payouts follow suit. >> once we started looking into prior incidents, that was the first indication that something wasn't right here. >> reporter: and so as investigators start to look into
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karl karlsen's past, it doesn't take them long to see what is a frightening pattern that dates back decades. >> the first thing that came up, was a car fire from 1986. it was a brand new mustang purchased by karl karlsen. had $10,000 insurance on it and it burned up in his driveway. >> according to the report we heard, there was nothing in the trunk, nothing in the glove box. the car just burned up. so the insurance took care of the payment and he got out from under it. >> the barn fire is another one of those coincidental tragedies. >> one evening in 2002, i was asleep. and karl sat up upright in bed and looked out the window, and said, "oh, my gosh. the barn's on fire." i knew there were horses in there. there was our prize belgian mare and two babies.
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>> it was devastating to see the barn burning down, which is part of our family's history. and then also to see the loss of these horses that were conveniently just put in the barn. >> somewhere around $115,000 karl's paid out on this barn and these horses. >> here we go one more time. a tragedy and a payout. >> i call it blood money. he got an insurance policy from my daughter. he got another insurance policy when he had a barn burn down with expensive horses in it. >> it was our life. >> yeah, it seemed like every couple years something was burning. so i feel like we kind of knew and just expected it. >> we choose to reach out to cindy karlsen to further the investigation. >> the first thing she said, "thank god you called." >> when you asked her to help you out? >> she said yes. >> she agreed. >> and put a wire on. >> part of me feels like i'm walking into a booby trap. >> do you want to go through my purse?
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>> i thought, maybe i can get him to confess. that was my goal. >> if karl did this, she wanted to get him. >> i'm terrified. i'm thinking, oh, my gosh. my husband is a murderer. i order my groceries online now. shingles doesn't care. i keep my social distance. shingles doesn't care. i stay within my family bubble. shingles doesn't care. because if you've had chicken pox, you're already carrying the virus that causes shingles. in fact, about 1 in 3 people will develop shingles, and the risk only increases as you age. so what can protect you against shingles? shingrix protects. now you can protect yourself from shingles with a vaccine proven to be over 90% effective. shingrix is a vaccine used to prevent shingles in adults 50 years and older. shingrix does not protect everyone and is not for those with severe allergic reactions to its ingredients or to a previous dose. an increased risk of guillain-barré syndrome
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this was a story that played out in upstate new york. i'm from upstate new york and i remember people consumed by this story, and it only got more twisted as the years went on. >> what kind of parent or father would push a truck over on their own child and let them suffer and die? it was the most terrifying time of my life. >> and it becomes a huge story. >> they asked him, you know what this is about? >> he said, oh, you want to talk about my dead wife and my dead son. >> let it out. >> when he says, who could do that, who could kill their wife that way? >> we know you killed your son that way. >> i said, i want to see my sister.
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he said, you can't. she's a crispy critter. that was his term. a crispy critter. >> he smiled like a cheshire cat and said, it's been 20 years. they haven't caught me yet and they're not going to. >> before karl would walk away for good there'd be one more twist in this case that's almost impossible to believe. >> there's karl. collette getting the turkey ready. levi, boy, don't you look handsome today. >> this wasn't about a job. this was a passion. this was a passion to bring justice. >> look at those two lovely people over there. >> for christina, levi and their family. >> my pride and joy sitting over in the rocker. >> investigators in seneca county get a tip, and that tip is look into karl karlsen. >> look at that son-in-law of
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mine. >> that's when the tide starts to shift. >> reporter: the year was 2012. it was about three years after levi karlsen had died, and as investigators begin to take a much closer look at this case, they learn levi karlsen had a life insurance policy and that his father karl was the beneficiary to this $700,000 life insurance policy. that seems very odd when levi had children of his own to leave money to. >> for me that was enough to re-open the investigation right there. >> it was the most terrifying time in my life. i decided that i just could not do it anymore. i couldn't live with karl anymore. i needed to get out of the house. shortly after i left is when law enforcement called me. >> first thing she said was, thank god you called. and then she said that she also
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had suspicions. >> they said they had a tip from a family member that maybe there was something more to levi's death. that's when we started working together with law enforcement.o regular basis. it was an ongoing process for months. >> i think she was almost kind of like -- almost wanting to be part of the police investigation team. >> i was watching a show where a woman was taping her mother, secretly, trying to get her to confess to killing her father. and i remember just thinking, i'm going to do that. i'm going to get a recorder and start recording my conversations with karl. i met karl in a busy restaurant. and karl had actually picked the place, i think, because he was worried that i was recording. and i just told him that i'd consider getting back together with him if he came clean or confessed about every single
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thing he did during our marriage, every lie he told. you come clean, and i'll consider it. he actually confessed. >> when she came to my office, she was all excited, and she said, "he just told me he killed levi." and she goes, and i recorded it. >> she pretty much thought this was the home run. >> but what happened was it was inaudible. >> it was a poor recording at best and surely one that didn't capture all that cindy thought it captured. >> reporter: but now it's the detectives who have an idea, and they ask cindy if she's willing to wear a wire to try to get karl karlsen to confess to this again. >> we're going to pick a restaurant. we're going to put undercover officers in there for safety, and also to monitor. and we're gonna wire her up professionally and see if they can recreate this conversation. >> and i said yes. >> she's got the wire on where? >> underneath her clothing. >> and what does he think he's walking into? >> he thinks he's coming to talk to his wife about getting back together. >> about reconciliation.
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>> yes. >> but she has no plan to get back together. >> no. >> she's here for you. >> yes. >> so the two of them are sitting together in the corner, and you had private investigators all throughout the room? >> yes. >> several of us sat in the immediate area with other investigators and plain clothes sitting inside the restaurant and nearby. >> hi, two? >> yep. >> want to sit by the fireplace? where would you like to sit? >> over by the fireplace is good i think. is that all right? okay. thank you. at this time now he's very suspicious that i want to hear the same things he did before. >> did i purposefully do it? no, not at all. >> that's not what you told me, karl. >> yes, it is. >> no, it isn't. >> part of me feels like i'm walking into a booby trap. >> he even said, "i feel like you're setting me up." how am i going to set a trap? do you want to go through my purse? >> karl's denying that he ever made any such admission, so we're kind of taken aback like,
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well what did he really tell cindy? what's going on here? >> i couldn't get him to confess to the same exact thing that he had confessed two days before. >> you can hear cindy karlsen pressing her husband karl over and over again. she doesn't give up. >> as the questions become more aggressive, karl appears to make a halfway admission. >> i asked you if you pushed the truck, and you said yes. >> no, i didn't push the truck. i said. i said i had nothing to do, but i said i took advantage of a situation once it happened, and that is exactly what happened. >> karl, you told me that you didn't set it up that way, but when you were in there you saw the opportunity. >> no, after it had happened. then i panicked, saw the opportunity. >> opportunity. a very strange word for a father to use about a son's death. >> i would find it very unusual that a parent would refer to the death of their child as an opportunity.
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>> for right now i need to -- >> i know, but i'm just telling you. >> -- hear it. did it fall hard? >> no. >> you just had to bump it? >> i mean, because it was so wobbly. you know? because the only thing that was touching the ground is just the back two wheels. >> any dessert? >> oh, no. >> no, but i'll have more coffee, thanks. >> sure. >> so then what happened? i mean, did he make a noise? it was instant? >> i thought. i mean, you'd think. >> it's not clear-cut and it's not definitive. >> by no means did we think this was a slam dunk. >> all right. i'll be in touch with you. >> bye. >> okay? all right, bye. >> at that point, we knew we we are going to be bringing him in for an interview. >> and they asked him to come in for questioning. they said, "do you know what this is about?" >> and he said, "oh, you want to talk about my dead wife and dead son." >> this isn't going to be a
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simple interview in a simple confession and we all know that going into this. >> karl's very comfortable with them until they start asking him very pointed questions. that's when the interview turns into an interrogation. >> i didn't kill him. >> what killed him? >> the truck. >> how did the truck kill him? >> it landed on him. >> just fell over. >> i felt like i was getting close. he was close to telling me what really happened that day. you're that close, man. you're close. come on. let it out. what does it mean to be a hero? ancestry helped me learn more about the man behind the medal. he was a father to two young daughters. he was a scout and he knew the land better than anyone. e from italy withather to nothing for a new life. his family depended on him. he sacrificed so much. isaac payne barney f. hajiro elijah bacon michael valente he is our family's hero. who are the heroes in your family?
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it was november 23, 2012. >> go ahead and have a seat. >> karl is picked up by two investigators. he's brought to the seneca county sheriff's office into an interview room.
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>> you can see in that interview that karl's very comfortable with them. >> i think it's the 23rd, but you know what? let me check. we want to be sure about this. >> the investigators are very -- reasonable with how they initially approach him. they read his miranda rights. >> we're obligated to read you your rights, i don't want you to get nervous by it, because we do everything by the book, okay. so you have the right to remain silent. anything you say can and will be use you against a court of law. >> most of the questions we asked, we already knew the answers to. it was just going to be how karl was going to answer them. >> you haul him in an begin asking questions. how many different stories did he have? >> three. >> what was version one? >> version one was essentially the same story that was in the original report. >> karl would tell detectives that after he returned home from that funeral with cindy that he walked out into the garage and discovered his son levi crushed underneath that truck. >> went out there and found him. you know, then we went to the hospital. >> what do you mean you found him?
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>> i found him dead. >> karl knows that they know something. he doesn't know the extent of what they know. >> now here's the thing, you confessed to your wife. >> i lied to my wife. you have her wired? >> yes, we do. it's all recorded. >> i thought you did. >> one thing became very clear is that he liked to talk, and he liked to talk about his favorite subject, which was him. >> you mind if i stand up? >> no, no. >> karl is talking about his history in the air force. >> we knew you were in the air force. >> his personal injuries. >> and i tore three of them. >> he's going through, basically, a complete narrative of his life. >> we sitting back down again? >> i am. i'm 100% disabled. >> he wants to keep reverting to talking about the pain in his back and how his back's bothering him, and woe me. forget about that his son's died and his wife's died. let's worry about karl and his back problem here. >> that bad, huh? >> you guys don't know.
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>> it was typical of him trying to get sympathy throughout the whole interrogation. >> there's one thing that stuck in my mind that came from cindy karlsen. her exact words were, "he's a sypathy junkie." and as we got into the latter part of the interview, i gave him a lot of sympathy, and a lot of hands-on contact, and that did work. >> roughly three hours into the interview, his version two starts. >> version number two was what? >> when he went back into the garage to see levi, he was already dead. >> the truck already had fallen over, and i found him dead. >> you went out and the truck was rolled over on him. >> yeah. and i -- [ bleep ] panicked. i don't know. >> you panic in what regard? >> i left. >> now, did you run over and call medical help, call 911, get help? >> no, i didn't do anything. [ bleep ]. >> was there a phone in the garage, or a cell phone? >> no, i went to the funeral.
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>> so he saw his son dead and trapped under the truck and still left for the funeral? >> yes. >> version two is far more ridiculous than version one. instead of screaming for help, going to get help, he simply goes, takes advantage of the situation and says, well, okay, >> it was an accident. i blame myself every day. >> he returns and flips and goes crazy and starts screaming for help. >> i love that kid more than -- because i knew he was struggling. i knew he went through what i went through as a kid. you know? i would give my life for that kid. >> i think throughout the interview he was convinced that he was going to convince us -- i mean, he had reason to think that way. he had gotten away with it for a long time. >> the interview ultimately lasts for nine hours. they put on the pressure harder.
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>> mind if i move my chair down here? >> sure. >> karlsen asks to move his chair, right, he moves his chair, puts it in the corner of the room. both investigators have literally backed him into a corner. >> did you tell cindy -- asked if you pushed the car over, she ask you, did it push hard? do you remember telling her, "no, it pushed easy"? >> i don't remember ever. >> could have you said that? >> i could have -- >> if it's on the audio tape -- >> it is, then i said it, yeah. >> you keep pushing, and yet a third story emerges. >> let it out. let it out. let it out. i'll walk with you, man. i'll walk with you. was it just a split-second thing? i felt like i was getting close with him. it's almost like a physical thing. you can almost feel it. i thought he was close to telling me something more about what really happened that day.
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>> and it would turn out that karl karlsen would have one more version of this story. he said that when he went out to that garage that his son levi was still alive and was actually working on the truck. >> i would never hurt him. i couldn't. it was an accident. i opened the truck door. >> okay. >> i opened the truck door because i had to get inside to move the linkage for the [ bleep ] truck. and when i did it tipped, and it just -- [ bleep ] fell over. >> now, you see karl what just happened? we've gone from he was dead when you walked in there to it fell when you opened the door. >> i know. >> so take the final step. >> there is no more. i stepped in the truck and the [ bleep ] thing fell. and i was just [ bleep ] scared [ bleep ] i don't know why. >> i can't imagine walking away and leaving your child dying on the floor. >> they were going to a funeral.
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>> yes. >> and yet many would argue he n his garage. >> we know the real version is version four, the untold version, where karl jacked it up, got levi to get under there and with all his force, pushes the truck over on him, and causes this truck to crash down onto levi. >> what kind of parent or father would push a truck over on their own child and let them suffer and die underneath that truck? >> that evening after the interview of karl, we arrested karl for the murder, murder in second degree and for the insurance fraud. >> i remember thinking, well, that one in california needs to be looked at certainly harder than it was. >> i went to go visit him. i was like, i know that you killed my mother. and he smiled like a cheshire cat and he said, it's been
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once karl was charged in new york, it gave me a glimmer of hope that maybe we could finally get some traction in calaveras county. >> look at me please. chris. thank you. >> two decades after christina died in that house fire, her sister colette never gave up. she believed that this was not an accident. >> it turns out, the investigators in new york had been digging into this case as well. >> watch karl. i don't trust that man. >> we're interviewing karl about levi. obviously, because we're investigators with new york state, but we're going to further this investigation in california.
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>> well, about halfway through the interview he does make a real off-the-wall remark. he comes out and says, what kind of person does that? what kind of person kills his own son or his wife? >> there's nothing that can justify killing your wife, your kids, your -- your uncles, your parents. it would be different if you killed your -- >> i didn't say you killed your wife, karl. >> no, i know, but i'm just saying, you know. wife, kids whatever. >> karl, did you? >> no, no. i've already been through that. no, hell no, and no way in hell. >> i thought it was a strange thing for him to bring up. california was on his mind, en ou atheen >> does he stick to his story about what he told in 1991? to some degree, yes, and some degree, no. >> was there a window in the
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bathroom? >> there was one that was like, extremely, extremely, extremely small. >> but of course there was that video that christina's cousin made showing us exactly how big that window was. >> this here is the bathroom where christina was found. here. i want a picture of this window. >> was it an old window. >> well, the window was like that big and it was boarded up. >> did you board it up? >> what's that? >> did you board it up? >> we had to because it was no good. but you couldn't fit out it anyway. you couldn't put, you had to be able to put a baby out of it, a baby. you and i or an 80-pound woman, there's no way. >> that video zoomed in on that bathroom window, and you could see it was large enough for a person to get out of. >> why don't you give karl a big kiss? >> oh, jeez. >> the investigators ask karlsen about the insurance policy that
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he had on his wife christina and how long before her death he actually took that policy out. >> so, about how long before, you think? >> it's -- it's -- >> was it, like, in other people's minds relatively soon? >> i -- it's got to be -- i don't know. it's got to be -- it's got to be like three, four months or something. >> oh, okay. >> but detectives already know and karl certainly should have known that he had taken out that life insurance policy just 19 days before christina died. >> it's very simple, the truth is the truth. but when you start telling lies, it's hard to remember lies and retell the lies. and for every lie you tell, two lies and for the two lies, you tell four lies. and it keeps getting compounded. >> it's interesting -- the situations you've had occur in your life.
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>> tell me about it. i look back at it -- >> they say lightning doesn't strike twice. >> no, it strikes -- well, i'll tell you what. when friends get around -- and we talk about that and it's like, there's no way. how could one person have this much [ bleep ] happen? >> there were so many people that harbored suspicions in 1991. there was documentation from state farm insurance, from fire investigators. >> fire investigators like ken buske who was hired by that insurance company all those years ago back in 1991. it turns out he had even more damning evidence that this fire wasn't an accident that this fire was intentionally set. >> it appeared that the fire had started on the carpet outside the bathroom door, so i was very interested in the carpet for that reason. >> buske examined that carpet closely, and he discovered something that was surprising. his report noted that there was
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evidence of a second kerosene pour right before the fire. not the spill that happened from the dog and cat roughhousing around. this pour happened right before the fire. >> the second spill appeared to be a deliberate pour, anywhere from a few seconds to a matter of minutes prior to the fire. and so at that point in time, i was thinking that the state of california would proceed to treat this as if it were a murder. i kept my files and still have my files. >> and there would be another person who never gave up the evidence he collected, state investigator carl kent. >> carl kent harbored suspicions for so long that when he retired, he took documents, two boxes of them, with an audio recording with papers and kept them. >> that's the only one that i've ever done that with. i would have loved to have gone new york. i think i could have talked to karl and -- it may have taken
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five, six, seven, eight, ten hours, who knows -- of talking to him. i think he we have might have been able to get a confession. >> after karlsen is arrested in new york for the murder of his son, the media catches wind of it, and it becomes a huge story. >> a man accused of killing his wife and son for insurance money. >> but it wasn't a surprise to anyone because when investigator start digging, a shocking discovery. was there a deadly pattern? >> the media brought so much attention to this case. it was relentless. the pressure that was continuing to put on calaveras county. >> that's what really got things going. >> but before he could get to trial, karlsen did something that no one saw coming. >> i was thrilled. and i was pissed. because that was him in control again.
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o m but levi and i would talk about it a lot -- about what he remembered, about what i remembered, and about how things just didn't add up. a year or two before levi moved out, levi and i told our father that we knew that he had murdered our mother. >> levi was around 17 years old, and karl had heard that levi was telling people that karl had killed his mother. >> he was arguing with our father and just blurted it out. >> i remember is karl just saying, why would you say that i killed your mother? what are the people going to think? >> levi, god love him, he had a steel spine, so he did not back
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down, and so that only infuriated by father further and it resulted in a fistfight in the kitchen. after he was jailed, i went to go visit him. he wanted to be able to give me a hug or something, and he was very pissed off that he was in this box, and he was trying to convince me he never would have killed our brother, never would have killed our mom. and i had just listened to it for a little bit and i stopped him and i looked at him and i was like, "i know that you did this and i know that you killed my mother." and he paused. and he just completely calmed down. he looked at me. he smiled like a cheshire cat and said, it's been 22 years. they haven't caught me yet, and they're not going to.
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>> after he was arrested, i was involved as much as i could. i followed every news article. and i was excited. i wanted that thing to go to trial, because there was no way he was going to walk off that thing. >> there was no trial in levi's case. >> after insurance fraud was dropped as a charge, karlsen pleaded guilty. >> karlsen admitted to killing his son. >> it was a huge relief to know that we weren't going to have to go through a trial. >> carl ultimately pleaded to second-degree murder. >> karl's image is super important. i felt that in the new york case, when he saw the witness list, including his own children testifying against him, i think he thought he was going to look bad. >> that was his cowardly way out of not doing that trial. that was him in control again.
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>> as a part of his plea deal, karlsen had to stand up in court and tell the judge exactly what he had done to his son, and in this version of the story, he tells the court something more horrifying than we ever thought before. >> he admits that he pushes the truck on to his son. he jacked it up on a wobbly jack knowing that it was life threatening for someone to be underneath it and that levi was still alive when he left. >> he left his son levi alive, crushed under that truck. and walked away. >> it was devastating for me to have my dad admit that. it wasn't just the loss of my brother. with that one statement it was the loss of my father, too. >> he was sentenced to 15 years to life in the new york state
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prison system. >> he showed no remorse today. it was like it was a game, and it wasn't a game. it was people's lives. i didn't like the sentence at all. was my nephew worth only 15 years? >> some in the karlsen family say there's more work to be done. not here, but in california. >> then there would be a turn. authorities decided to re-open the investigation into christina karlsen's death in california back in 1991. >> for all these years i've literally thought the man got away with murder and there was nothing i could do. and the hard part is you never forget. >> i think it really was the media exposure in combination with the new york state police pushing california. >> and of course the family. my aunt, god love he -- my aunt collette was on them like white on rice to make sure this
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happened. >> i definitely ramped up my activities to get their attention that, you know, we're still out here, still waiting for justice. >> the authorities in california start digging into the case, and they unearth evidence that had long been forgotten. >> you start to hear about all of these former figures that were at the forefront in 1991 getting contacted again. >> so, i pick up the phone and i'm totally surprised to hear about this communication that's come back. >> the d.a.'s office in calaveras county contacted me and says, do you know anything about a fire that happened in 1991? and i go, yes, they said, do you know where the records are? >> all these years later, that california fire investigator still had those two boxes of evidence sitting in his
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basement, and he turned them over to the d.a. this evening a brand-new development in the "20/20" exclusive you saw here first. the d.a. there suddenly announces that they're charging karl karlsen in this death of his first wife, christina. >> i was very surprised when california's case went forward that case is 29 years old. i knew the witness and evidence were going to be scrutinized. >> i was very eager to see california's trial play out. we as a family needed to see it play out. >> i submit to you that he built christina a coffin and trapped her in there. christina took her last breath trapped in this coffin. >> it becomes more unbelievable with every development. nobody could have seen where this was going. >> everybody in the courtroom sucked in their breath. they were surprised. they were so surprised.
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this was not an accident. it was intentional. and we want to go to trial.
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my mom never stopped believing. she believed from the very beginning that the trial would actually occur. and she's got a very ultimately she was right. >> the trial took place in calaveras county superior court, approximately 29 years, almost to the date, after christina karlsen died. it was heartbreaking to see my dad in the courtroom. >> he turns and looks at me and smiles, just a normal dad looking and smiling at his daughter, and it brought back all of these emotions. >> christina alexander-karlsen was so many things to so many people. the defendant, through cold and
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calculated measures, extinguished the light that was christina. and he did it on purpose. >> the protionby cthe judgtollow them to tell jurors about the previous incidents and all the insurance payouts to karlsen. >> i'd say it was absolutely foundational to the setup of their case that the jury know, not just about the death of christina, but about the barn fire, about the car fire, about the death of levi. >> so when he says, who could do that? who could kill their wife that way? well, we already know you killed your son that way. >> karl has a conviction in new york for the murder of his son. i can't argue against that and i wouldn't try. you're not here to determine whether he's a good and pious man. that's not your job. your job is to determine if the people have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that karl
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killed his wife and that he did it for money. >> the first person on the stand was erin deroche. >> she knows what happened. she knows what her father did to her mother. >> she could speak so clearly about the moment that everyone was evaluating. >> i testified about his behavior after getting us out of the house. then, of course, for the few days following the fire. >> she brought memories of her confronting karl after his arrest in the death of levi. >> it doesn't get much more damning than someone who's supposed to love you unconditionally says, i believe he killed my mother. i know he killed my brother. >> i was very nervous to testify. i've never participated in anything like this before. >> and it was on the stand that colette tells jurors this chilling story about the very
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first conversation she had with karl karlsen after learning that her sister had died in that fire. >> i went into the house, and i told him that i wanted to see my sister and he said, you can't. she's a crispy critter. that was his term, a "crispy critter." everybody in the courtroom just kind of sucked in their breath. >> i think he truly believed that my sister had burned up in the house and that there would be no evidence. and he was wrong. >> but some of the most critical testimony came from that fire investigator hired by the insurance company, ken buske. >> the trouble light didn't ignite this. none of the appliances in the home ignited this. it had to be a person applying a flame to the kerosene. >> though karl karlsen barely
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spoke in person during the trial, the jury heard him a lot. they heard recordings that were made over the course of his lifetime regarding the investigation into christina's death. >> your not proud of getting money from someone's death. >> not proud? >> i'll tell you where pride comes into it. you break that [ bleep ] wall down and you [ bleep ] save her. >> yeah. >> ladies and gentlemen, the defendant had motive. his motive in this case was greed. greed. >> the defense was questioning the validity of what happened. >> we all know that that evidence is 29 years old. >> the defense's argument seemed to be that if the case wasn't strong enough back in 1991, what would make anything different now? >> this case was ignored 29 years ago. it was brought to them. he looked at it. they said, no, pass, there's
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nothing here. >> i was looking forward to it being done with, and it was the end of week three when the juro and deliberate. >> i really thought this would drag out much longer than it did. but the jury came out, said they had a verdict. >> we the jury find the defendant karl holger karlsen guilty of murder in the first degree. >> karlsen had no reaction at all. stone cold. in fact, it looked like he almost expected that verdict. >> i've never been more humbled by or grateful to 12 strangers in my entire life. it was everything i wanted. >> he very stoically stood up and he walked away.
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i really wanted to see him look over his shoulder, make eye contact with those two girls, and just by eye, tell them something, say something to them. he walked aw otheir mother, walked away on their brother, and he just walked away on them. again. >> but before karl would walk away for good, there would be one more unbelievable twist in this case that, it's almost impossible to believe. >> i mean, who would take out a life insurance policy on little girls? only 6% of us retail businesses
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we the jury find the we, the jury, find the defendant karl holger karlsen guilty of murder in the first-degree of christina karlsen. >> the monday that the jurors came to a verdict was actually levi's birthday. he would have been 35 the day that the guilty verdict came in my mother's death. it was surreal. >> so after all of these years that fire back in 1991, it was just weeks ago that karl karlsen finds himself in the calaveras
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county courthouse to hear his sentence. >> in this case the defendant would be sentenced to a state prison in the term of life without the possibility of parole. >> i just want to see him rot in jail. you know, i'm not a vindictive person normally, but in this case, i am. i can't help it. >> we should have never been investigating the death of levi. this family went through enough in 1991. it should have ended then. >> but it turns out that there are people in karlsen's life who think had he not been arrested, he may have been trying to get away with murder yet again. >> after karl collected on levi's death, additional policies are taken out on the two granddaughters. >> dad had life insurance policies out on both of my brother's daughters. >> levi's widow said that she had recently got a visit from karl after many, many months of no contact at all.
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wanting to renew his contacts with his granddaughters and get them out to the farm. >> most people don't even realize that you could take out life insurance policies on your grandchildren. >> i was scared half to death an accident was going to happen with one of them. >> eventually cindy cashed out those policies to make sure there was nothing hanging over the heads of her granddaughters. >> it's a relief to know that we don't have to worry for ourselves, for our children, for our nieces, for our nephews. >> it felt really good that some justice was finally done for this family. it's way overdue. >> i found these. this is the first time erin and aunt collette have seen them in a long time. but they are her rings. this was her class ring. teeny tiny little fingers. my sister was real small. >> i think anything of any real
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monetary value, but it's got obviously the sentimental value for us. >> there were so many twists and turns in this case, and one of the things that i think brings real comfort to the family is that levi is now buried right next to his mother christina in murphys california. >> they're actually together in murphys. > i'm very happy he got to be buried next to mom. >> i go and i sit and just wonder if i've done enough for her kids. i tried to make sure that they knew their mother through me. now with levi there, they're there together.
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>> together at last together at last. it's been an extraordinary story. that is our program tonight. thanks so much for watching. >> for all of us at abc news and "20/20," have a good night. i'm. from all of us at abc news and "20/20," have a good night.
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