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The Truth—How Karl Karlsen Took The Life Of His Wife and Son For Insurance Payout

The brutal story of Karl Karlsen

By Rare StoriesPublished 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 4 min read

Karl Karlsen was considered a grieving man. He had lost his wife and son within 17 years, and people had thought their deaths were both accidental.

The pitiful narrative Karlsen tried to project worked for years until someone came forward with enough information to expose the dark reason behind the deaths in Karlsen's family. It turned out that Karlsen had meticulously planned the deaths of his loved ones after taking out huge life insurance policies on them; for him, this was a nice money grab.

The Beginning

Karl Karlsen was born in the early 1960s and grew up on a family farm in Minnesota. He had a passion for raising, showing, and selling Belgian draft horses. He joined the U.S. Air Force as a cadet and worked as a transporter of nuclear weapons.

Karl Karlsen with his wife, Christina, and three children

He met his first wife, Christina Karlsen, in the early 1980s, when she was already married to another cadet. They fell in love quickly and got married in 1987. They had three children together: Levi, Kati, and Erin.

Killing His Wife

Karl Karlsen killed his wife, Christina Karlsen, by setting their house on fire in Murphys, California, on January 1, 1991. He trapped her in the bathroom, which had a boarded-up window, and poured kerosene on the carpet outside. He then escaped with their three children and claimed he tried to save her but failed.

Christina Karlsen before her death

He collected $200,000 from her life insurance policy and moved to New York shortly after.

A year later, he married his second wife, Cindy Best.

Killing His Son

Karl Karlsen killed his son, Levi Karlsen, by crushing him under a truck on November 20, 2008, in their home in Varick, New York. He lured his 23-year-old son underneath the 5,000-pound vehicle and then knocked it off its jack, leaving it atop the young man until he suffocated.

Levi Karlsen

On that fateful day, it was Cindy who made the 911 call. She called the emergency number and frantically explained that her stepson, Levi, was pinned down by a truck he was working on after the car fell off a jack.

When authorities came and removed him from under the truck, they found a crushing wound on Levi's chest; they determined he had died hours before the call was made.

Levi's father, Karlsen, explained that Levi was working under the truck when he and Cindy were going out for a funeral. But when they came back, they found him crushed by the truck. This was a plausible explanation that the authorities bought.

The family doctor registered the death as accidental and that gave Karlsen the right to claim the $700,000 life insurance policy he had taken on his son just 17 days before his death.

Cindy Best

In February 2012, John Cleerie, Lieutenant of Investigation, Seneca County Sheriff's Office, received a call from Levi's cousin, Jackie Hymel. Hymel gave the hint that Levi must have been murdered by his father. Investigators reopened the case and quickly got more interested when they realized that Karlsen had taken out insurance policies on his wife and son shortly before their deaths.

The investigators decided to work with Cindy to uncover the truth. Cindy had left the marriage after she discovered through a private investigator that Karlsen had taken out a life insurance policy on her. The authorities got her to wear a wire while she discussed the death of Levi with Karlsen. This was when he inadvertently made some statements that gave him out as the killer, he said he caused the truck to fall, but he freaked out and left Levi with the truck.

Karlsen was arrested and tried for second-degree murder. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Shortly after, on December 8, 2012, the investigation into the death of Christina Karlsen was reopened. Investigators also determined that the fire that killed her had been purposely set.

On February 3, 2020, nearly three decades after her death, Karl Karlsen was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.

The End!

A true crime book.


We have published the second volume of this book, "Horrific True Crime Stories." The book is available on Amazon and we believe it is a good read. We selected 17 stories that we believe are engaging and wrote on them.

This is the link to the book.

Horrific True Crime Stories Volume 2: 17 Terrifying and Unimaginable True Crime Cases

Horrific True Crime Stories Volume 2: 17 Terrifying and Unimaginable True Crime Cases

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