A man who killed his son in 2008 to collect $700,000 from his life insurance policy was convicted this week of killing his wife nearly 30 years ago for the same reason.
The man, Karl Holger Karlsen, 59, pleaded guilty in 2013 to murdering his son, Levi Karlsen, in Seneca Falls, N.Y., and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. That conviction raised the suspicions with detectives in California, where the investigation into his wife’s death had been continuing, according to court documents.
Mr. Karlsen’s wife, Christina A. Karlsen, 30, died on New Year’s Day in 1991, when she was trapped by a fire in a boarded up bathroom of the family home in Calaveras County, Mr. Karlsen’s lawyer, Richard Esquivel, said.
Days after his wife’s death, Mr. Karlsen collected $215,000 from his wife’s insurance policy and he and his children moved to Seneca Falls, N.Y., where he is from, Mr. Esquivel said.
On Monday, a jury convicted Mr. Karlsen of murdering his wife by committing an arson — purposefully boarding up the bathroom and lighting a fire in a hallway to kill her.
He could face a maximum life sentence without the possibility of parole during his sentencing hearing on March 17. He plans to appeal the conviction, Mr. Esquivel said.
The victim’s mother, Arlene Meltzer, 78, was in the courtroom when the verdict was read by the jury.
“I just knew that he had something to do with it,” she said on Tuesday. “It is something a mother always carries in their heart.” With the money from his wife’s life insurance policy, Mr. Karlsen moved back to New York, bought a house and paid several bills, Mr. Esquivel said.
According to court documents, Mr. Karlsen’s son, Levi, bought a $700,000 life insurance policy in 2008. Soon after that, Levi, 23, signed paperwork that named his father the sole beneficiary of his policy in the event of his death, records show; his father was present at the time of signing.
Hours after signing the paperwork, Levi’s body was found by his father’s second wife, Cindy Karlsen, under a truck that had fallen on him in Mr. Karlsen’s garage, records show.
Initially, the authorities deemed the death an accident. But in 2011, when Ms. Karlsen realized that her husband had invested money from his son’s policy into a $1.2 million life insurance policy for her, she alerted the authorities, according to court documents.
She cooperated with the authorities, and while she was wearing a wire, Mr. Karlsen admitted that he had deliberately caused the truck to fall on his son, according to court documents. In 2012, Mr. Karlsen was charged with murdering his son, and he pleaded guilty the following year.
“We suspected that he was guilty of Levi’s death as well,” Ms. Meltzer said. “I expected that he was involved in it in some way.”
Mr. Karlsen appealed his conviction in that case and lost, but he planned to appeal again, Mr. Esquivel said.
Ms. Meltzer, meanwhile, is done waiting.
“For 30 years we stood and waited — right now I am just taking quiet time to help me get strong,” Ms. Meltzer said as her voice quivered. “I just kept my prayers going because I knew that he was involved, but I just had to stand by and believe that god was going to take care of it.”
“It has finally come to an end,” she said.