For the fourth time, the California murder trial of a former Seneca County resident has been delayed.
According to the Union Democrat newspaper in Sonora, Calif., the trial of Karl Karlsen is now scheduled for Jan. 8. It is the fifth trial date set in the case.
Karlsen faces a first-degree murder charge in the 1991 death of his first wife, Christina. She died in a fire in Calaveras County, Calif., and Karlsen collected $200,000 on a life insurance policy he purchased weeks before she died.
In 2013, Karlsen was sentenced to 15 years-to-life in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the 2008 death of his 23-year-old son, Levi, at Karlsen’s Yale Farm Road in Varick. Karlsen admitted causing a pickup truck on a wobbly jack to fall on Levi, then leaving his son to die while he went out of town.
Karlsen collected on a $700,000 life insurance policy he took out on Levi weeks before his death. Levi’s death was ruled accidental in 2008, but police looked into the case again several years later after Karlsen’s second wife, Cindy, secretly taped conversations with Karlsen while they were estranged.
Those tapes, which Cindy recorded under the guise of saving their marriage, reportedly included admissions by Karlsen that he killed Levi intentionally. Cindy Karlsen went to police with those tapes, initiating the investigation.
Karlsen confessed following a nearly 10-hour interview at the Seneca County Sheriff’s Office.
Karlsen’s California trial had been scheduled to begin Aug. 28. According to the Union Democrat, the latest delay was due to Karlsen’s defense attorney not getting investigatory material from his former attorney.
“The delays in California are tough on the victim’s family,” said Seneca County Undersheriff John Cleere, who was one of the lead investigators in Karlsen’s New York case and is expected to testify at the California trial.
The judge in California has ruled that Karlsen’s confession to New York State Police and Seneca County Sheriff’s Office investigators in Levi’s death, as well as his conviction, can be used in the California trial.
California investigators reopened their case after Karlsen admitted killing Levi. Christina’s death originally was ruled accidental.
Karlsen saved his three young children from the California home, including Levi, but told police he could not save Christina. She was 30 at the time.
Karlsen, 58, could face the death penalty if convicted in California. Karlsen was moved from a New York prison to California in 2016.