When Levi Karlsen was crushed to death while fixing up a pickup truck four years ago, authorities in his quiet New York county thought it was a sad mishap. But now they say his death was no accident: His father has been charged with murdering him for insurance money.
Karl Karlsen, who initially told police he’d found his son’s motionless body trapped under the truck, was being held without bail Saturday in the Seneca County jail in New York’s Finger Lakes region. The 52-year-old father was arrested Friday after an eight-month reinvestigation of a death that had long since been ruled an accident.
The case also is prompting a new look at a 1991 California fire that killed Karlsen’s first wife.
The family’s phone wasn’t accepting messages Saturday, and jail officials didn’t know whether Karl Karlsen had a lawyer.
Levi Karlsen, 23, died in November 2008 while working on a truck in a barn on the family’s property in Romulus, about 55 miles southwest of Syracuse. A distraught Karl Karlsen told sheriff’s deputies he had returned from a family event and found the truck had toppled off a jack and trapped his son underneath.
“There were no indications of foul play, and from all signs, this appeared to be a very tragic accident,” Seneca County Sheriff Jack Stenberg said in a press statement.
But then, this March, the sheriff’s office learned about a life insurance policy on Levi Karlsen, taken out just days before his death, with his father as sole beneficiary. Investigators took another look at the circumstances surrounding the alleged accident and concluded that Karl Karlsen made the truck fall on his son, went to the family gathering and returned to make a show of supposedly discovering his son’s body, Stenberg said.
“To think that a father could cause a vehicle to fall off a jack, crushing his son, and then leave for four hours – knowing all the time that his son was pinned under the truck, apparently dead – is unconscionable,” the sheriff said.
He said his office and other authorities were now looking into the 1991 blaze that took the life of Christena Karlsen, the defendant’s first wife. The sheriff’s office declined to give further details Saturday.
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