Calveras County, Calif. — A Seneca County man who pleaded guilty to charges of killing his son in 2008 has been charged with the murder of his wife in a 1991 fire in California, reports say.

The Calveras County District Attorney said today that Karl Karlsen has been charged with first-degree murder in the death of his first wife 23 years ago, according to the Syracuse Post-Standard.

Police say that Karlsen killed his wife on New Year’s Day in 1991 in an arson fire to seek financial gain. Weeks before his wife’s death, Karlsen took out a life insurance policy on her — a policy that helped him collect $200,000 after his wife’s death.

Last year, Karlsen pleaded guilty in the 2008 murder of his son, Levi, 23, by knocking the truck he and his son were working on off of a jack in his garage in Romulus, according to multiple reports. Romulus is about 30 miles from Ithaca.

Seventeen days before his son died, Karlsen took out a $700,000 life insurance policy on him – a policy in which Karlsen was the only beneficiary, according to a Syracuse Post-Standard report.

Karlsen was sentenced to 15 years-to-life in state prison for the murder of his son.

The Syracuse Post-Standard reports:

“Karlsen pleaded guilty last year to killing his … son, Levi, by knocking a truck off a jack while Levi worked under it in Karlsen’s town of Romulus garage in 2008. 

Karlsen was sentenced in December to 15 years to life in state prison. Karlsen bought a $700,000 life insurance policy on Levi just 17 days before Levi died.

The death of Christina Karlsen (his first wife) was officially listed as an accident, but her family members always suspected Karl Karlsen had killed her. After Karlsen was charged in 2012 with his son’s murder, California investigators re-opened the case.

Kyle Friend

A senior at Cornell University, Kyle covers the affordable housing crisis for the Ithaca Voice. Reach him through e-mail: