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Western NY

Seneca County Man Accused of Murder in Son's Death

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Rochester: Man Accused of Murder in Son's Death
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A Seneca County man is facing murder charges in connection with the 2008 death of his son and authorities are investigating to see if he's also responsible for the death of his first wife.

Karl Karlsen, 53, of Romulus, is charged with second-degree murder for the death of Levi Karlsen, 23, in November of 2008.

New information caused investigators to re-open this four year old case in March 2012. The circumstances around Levi Karlsen's death have investigators wondering if there is a connection to the 1991 fire that killed Levi's mother.

After more than 40 years in the Sheriff's office, Sheriff Jack Sternberg says Karl Karlsen's alleged actions are hard to comprehend.

"When he left to go to the funeral for four hours, he knew that Levi was already dead. To go there and come back and do what he did when he came back home," said Sheriff Sternberg.

After returning from a funeral on November 20, 2008, Karlsen told his wife, Candy, to call 911, claiming he found his son, Levi, trapped underneath a car he had been working on.

Investigators say there was no indication of foul play at the time and cause of death was ruled accidental.

"People who investigated at the time are still here, now that they look at it say it seemed very legitimate, very distraught," said Sternberg.

But new information led investigators to reopen the case in March 2012. For the Karlsen family, including Levi's wife and two children, a tragic accident has now become a murder investigation.

"Normally if the circumstances look suspicious, if there are any questions on what may have happened then you look forward but I don't believe facts presented at the time warranted that and it wasn't done, it just wasn't done," said Sternberg.

Sheriff Sternberg says it was determined that Karlsen took out a substantial life insurance policy on Levi two weeks before his death. He says Levi was aware of the policy but his step-mother and wife were not. Sternberg says circumstances surrounding the accident suggest Karlsen intentionally caused the vehicle to fall off the jack, crushing his son.

"There's some information that has developed that we feel we should share with California," said Sternberg.

Authorities are now looking into a 1991 house fire in California that claimed the life of Christina Karlsen, Karlsen's first wife and Levi's mother. The sheriff says the circumstances surrounding her death have raised concern.

All family members are taken back, a lot of questions in their minds about the situation.

Sheriff Stenberg says it's fair to say most of the insurance money Karlsen received has been spent.

Family members of Levi Karlsen declined to speak on camera. Karlsen is due back in court on Thursday. ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP