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Seneca Co. DA: Karl Karlsen loses appeal

On June 6th the New York Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, rejected an appeal from Karl Karlsen, who killed his son for insurance money.

In November 2013, Karlsen pleaded guilty to murder in the second degree shortly after the jury trial commenced in the Seneca County Court. On December 16th, 2013, the Court sentenced him to 15 years to life in prison.

On the morning of November 20th, 2008, Karlsen took his 23-year-old son, Levi Karlsen, to a bank where he had a notary public witness Levi sign a hand-written purported will that left Levi’s estate to Karlsen.

Later that day in a detached garage on Karlsen’s property in the Town of Varick, Karlsen jacked up the front end of his pick-up truck with a wobbly jack and took off the front tires, and then solicited Levi to perform work underneath the truck. While Levi was lying underneath the elevated end of the truck, Karlsen caused the truck to fall off the jack and land on Levi’s chest, killing him. Karlsen then abandoned the helpless Levi.

Seventeen days before the murder, Karlsen obtained a $700,000 life insurance policy on Levi’s life in which Karlsen was named as the sole beneficiary. After the murder, Karlsen received the money.

The death of Levi in 2008 was originally ruled an accident, but in late 2012, Karlsen made statements to his estranged wife and then to the police admitting that he caused the truck to fall off the jack and onto Levi, and that he walked away, allowing Levi to die. Karlsen was soon indicted for murder.

Karlsen was represented on the appeal by well-known Syracuse lawyer and noted appellate expert John Cirando. Seneca County District Attorney Barry Porsch has represented the prosecution throughout the proceedings.

In his application to the Court of Appeals, Karlsen’s attorney argued that Karlsen was improperly denied an attorney during the police interrogation, that his statements to the police were not voluntary, that his guilty plea was not knowing and intelligent, that his statements to his estranged wife should have been precluded under the spousal privilege law, that he did not waive his Miranda rights, and that he was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel. Porsch submitted a response to each argument.

The Court of Appeals agreed with Porsch on all issues and denied Karlsen’s appeal.

Karlsen has now exhausted his direct appeal opportunities in New York, having lost at both the Appellate Division Court in Rochester and the Court of Appeals in Albany.

Karlsen is presently awaiting trial in Calaveras County, California, where he has been charged with the murder of his first wife, Christina.

Her 1991 death had originally been ruled accidental, until authorities reopened the case in 2012 after Karlsen, now 56, was arrested for the murder of his son. Karlsen had taken out a $200,000 life-insurance policy on Christina the month before she died in a house fire.

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