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Sheriff: Seneca County man murdered son to collect life insurance money

Posted at: 11/26/2012 6:00 PM
Updated at: 11/26/2012 6:12 PM
By: Ray Levato

A Seneca County man has been accused of murdering his son four years ago in order to collect the life insurance money. The 52-year-old was arrested this weekend.

Karl Karlsen originally reported his 23-year-old son's death as an accident, when he was crushed underneath a car he was working on. But officers say there's new evidence and now they are also investigating the death of his ex-wife, who passed away 21-years-ago in a house fire in California.

23 year old Levi Karlsen died after he was crushed beneath a car he was working on, in a barn on their property on Yale Farm Road. Ovid is not far away and where News10NBC found people who know the Karlsen family.

Sharon Compton said, “It's unbelievable that something like that can happen around here. It's hard to believe that you could do something like that, or being accused of doing something like that to your own child.”

Jim Stewar said, “It's shocking. You just don't think it can happen in a small community but it does.”

Ed Compton said he knows Karlsen's brother.

Compton said, “I feel sorry for the rest of the family who lives here. They have to hear this all the time on the news. It's got to be hard on them.”

Seneca County Sheriff Jack Stenberg says someone came forward last spring with information that led investigators to look into Levi Karlsen's death. Karl Karsen, the father, had taken out a substantial life insurance policy on his son just days before he died. At the time, Karlsen said he and his wife had returned home and discovered the boy beneath the truck.

But the sheriff says circumstances surrounding the young man's death suggested the father was responsible for the truck falling and pinning Levi underneath.

Jack Stenberg, Seneca County Sheriff, said, “He was aware that the truck had fallen on Levi. My point was how you could then get in a vehicle, go away for four or five hours and then come back and put a show on behaving in a manner being distraught. Just to me is very difficult to comprehend.”

The sheriff wouldn't comment on if the father and son were having problems and if the current wife (the boy's stepmother) is the one who came forward.

The sheriff would only say they interviewed Karlsen, as well as other members of the family, but said the facts will come out as the case progresses in court. The sheriff also said he was proud of all the investigators including the state insurance fraud bureau for “the professionalism they displaced in being Levi's voice.”