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Calaveras County Superior Court

Calaveras County jury finds Karlsen guilty of first degree murder

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Karl Karlsen, 59, was charged with murder in the 1991 house fire death of his wife Christina Karlsen. 

Twenty-nine years after the fact, New York native Karl Karlsen, 59, has been found guilty of murdering his wife by setting fire to the home they once shared with their three young children in Murphys.

A jury of 12 Calaveras County citizens delivered their verdict today after a 13-day-long trial and roughly eight hours of deliberation.

Family members of Karlsen and the victim, Christina Karlsen, shared tearful embraces after the verdict was read.


Christina Karlsen's mother, Arlene Meltzer, right, hugs a loved one following the reading of the verdict. 

“My goodness,” Christina’s mother, Arlene Meltzer, said as she hugged a loved one. "Thirty long years is a long time to stand firm."

Christina is the second relative the defendant has been convicted of killing.

In 2013, he pleaded guilty in a Seneca County, New York court to murdering his 23-year-old son Levi Karlsen, who survived the Murphys fire only to be crushed by a jacked-up truck under which his father intentionally lured him.

In 1991, Christina died of smoke inhalation, trapped in the bathroom of a Murphys home by a boarded-up window.

Though thousands of miles and 17 years apart, the two murders bear chilling similarities, including insurance policies taken out on the victims’ lives within a few weeks of their deaths.


Karl Karlsen confers with his attorney before being led out of the courtroom on Feb. 3. 

According to the prosecution, Karl Karlsen has reaped more than $1 million in insurance payouts during his lifetime from untimely deaths and destructive fires.

After Christina’s death, he received over $200,000 from State Farm Insurance and bought a home in rural Upstate New York. After Levi’s death, he received $700,000.

While serving a sentence of 15 years to life in a New York prison, the defendant was extradited to Calaveras County to face charges for his wife’s murder. He has been held in the county jail since 2016.

Karlsen will be sentenced on March 17.

Additional reactions will be featured in this Thursday's edition of the Enterprise. 


Dakota graduated from Bret Harte in 2013 and went to Davidson College, NC where she earned a bachelor's degree in Arab studies. After spending time studying in the Middle East and Europe, she is happy to be home, writing about the community she loves.

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