Karl Karlsen

Just before 10 a.m. a jury of seven women and five men began deliberating the fate of Karl Karlsen, who is accused of murdering his wife Christina by igniting a kerosene fire in 1991 at their Murphys home.

“We’re surprised the original 12 are still with us, but the trial is not over yet,” said Judge Thomas A. Smith. 

The trial, which began on Jan. 8, included approximately three dozen witnesses over 11 days of testimony, ranging from members of Karl Karlsen’s and Christina Alexander’s family, fire investigators and representatives of State Farm Insurance.

The prosecution, led by Calaveras County District Attorney Barbara Yook, accused Karl Karlsen of concocting insurance schemes to receive illicit payouts from the death of Christina and the death of his son, Levi.

“The picture that has been painted is of callous greed and money is more important than life,” Yook said. “It is in your hands now. It’s up to you to right this wrong.” 

Karl Karlsen pleaded guilty to second degree murder in 2013 in Levi’s death. Levi was found dead, crushed under a car he was working on, at Karlsen’s farm in 2008. Karl Karlsen had taken out a $700,000 life insurance policy on Levi in the weeks before his death.

In a 45-minute rebuttal closing argument on Friday morning, Yook emphasized a report by fire investigator and electrical engineer Kenneth Buske who said he found evidence of a fresh kerosene spill on top of the kerosene soaked carpet at the Murphys home just before the fire. Karl Karlsen took out a $200,000 insurance policy on Christina (and $100,000 policies on each of his children) 19 days before the fire.  

State Farm Insurance investigators found he intentionally started the fire, but their recommendation to deny his insurance claim was overlooked and he was paid approximately $215,000. 

According to the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision, Karl Karlsen was sentenced to 15 years to life for the death of Levi. He was admitted to the New York prison system on Dec. 23, 2013 and is on record as an inmate at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. He has an earliest release date on November 23, 2027 and a parole hearing in July 2027.


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