A series of hearing dates regarding a change of venue motion, a motion to dismiss and conditional examinations were set at Karl Karlsen’s preliminary trial conference Friday afternoon in Calaveras County Superior Court.

Karlsen, 56, has been accused of igniting a house fire in 1991 that killed his wife, Christina Alexander Karlsen. Karlsen had taken out a $200,000 life insurance policy in the weeks before her death on New Year’s Day 1991.

The hearing was initiated when defense attorney Scott Gross requested a chamber conference between himself, David Wellenbrock, a private attorney from Lodi hired by Gross for the purposes of the motions, Deputy District Attorney Jeff Stone and presiding Judge Grant Barrett.

The meeting lasted just under 10 minutes and, upon the return of the counsels, Karlsen shuffled out of jail holding to his seat.

Barrett activated the hiss of a white-noise courtroom speaker while Gross, kneeling to Karlsen’s left, discussed with him the circumstances of the chamber conference. Wellenbrock, seated to Karlsen’s right, would also momentarily interject with a short statement.

After the conversation, Gross noted to Barrett that the prosecution had requested the conditional examinations of three witnesses.

A conditional examination allows for testimony from a witness who may be infirm or unavailable at the time of a jury trial. The testimony is recorded and has the same force as testimony given during a jury trial.

Barrett set the conditional examinations hearing for 9 a.m. Aug. 17.

The names of the three witnesses were not revealed.

Barrett vacated an Aug. 18 hearing date on the change of venue motion, rescheduling it for 11 a.m. Sept. 15.

Barrett acknowledged the hearing could take more than two hours and added a continued change of venue motion hearing to the 2:30 p.m. calendar docket.

Gross committed to submitting the motion to the court by July 21 for review by the prosecution.

Barrett additionally set an Aug. 31 hearing date for a trial dismissal motion predicated on the defense’s claims of destruction of evidence and delaying prosecution.

“Things are really going to start heating up,” Gross said.

Wellenbrock said the motion would be filed by July 31, and Barrett also scheduled a opposition response deadline for the prosecution of Aug. 22.

Barrett also directed a inquiry toward Karlsen himself, acknowledging a letter he had sent to the court and asking if “the issue” had been resolved between himself and his attorneys.

“Yes, sir,” Karlsen replied.

Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or gricapito@uniondemocrat.com . Follow him on Twitter @gsepinsonora.

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