In 1991, Christina Karlsen was killed in a house fire. Her husband, Karl Karlsen, collected a $200,000 insurance payout at the time. ABC’s 20/20 will be airing a special including interviews with Karlsen’s daughters tonight, Friday, June 5, 2020.used
Karl Karlsen and Christina Karlsen and their three children in Calaveras County, California. Their home was enveloped in flames on New Year’s Day in 1991.
Karl Karlsen later married his second wife, Cindy Best. His son, Levi, was crushed under his father’s truck while he was repairing it in November 2008. Though initially ruled as an accident, the authorities became suspicious when they realized that just 17 days prior to Levi’s death, his father had made him take out an insurance policy for himself and list Karl Karlsen as the sole beneficiary.
Here’s what you should know about Christina Karlsen:
1. Her Death Was Originally Ruled an Accident
Since Christina Karlsen was killed in a house fire, it was originally ruled to be an accident.
According to Syracuse.com, Christina Karlsen died trapped behind boarded-up windows in a smoke-filled bathroom January 1, 1991. Karl Karlsen and his three children, Levi, Erin and Katie, escaped the home.
Karl Karlsen had taken out a $200,000 life-insurance policy on Christina just weeks before her death. He used that money to move his family to Seneca County, New York.
2. Her Ex-Husband Is Serving Life in Prison
Karl Karlsen has been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of Christina Karlsen, though the death had initially been ruled an accident.
In 2012, Cindy Best was suspicious of her husband and feared for her own life, so she told the police of her suspicions and began to wear a wire while talking to her husband. On the recordings, he is heard talking about his son’s death as an opportunity and said he took advantage of the situation.
Kark Karlsen was arrested in 2012 for second-degree murder for his son and insurance fraud. In 2013, he plead guilty to second-degree murder. On February 3, 2020, he was found guilty of the murder of his first wife.
3. Her Family Was Suspicious of Karl Karlson Before the Conviction
Erin DeRoche and Kati Reynolds grew up with their father, Karl Karlsen, and lost their mother at a young age. They grew suspicious of their father after the death of their brother, Levi.
“I knew as soon as I heard that Levi was gone that [my father] had done it. I knew with every fiber of my being.” DeRoche said.
Her sister was also suspicious of her brother-in-law.
“My sister is gone, three young kids grow up without a mom. Now, her son is gone, two young kids grow up without their dad because of one person,” Colette Bousson said. “I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt he did it. I just didn’t know what was the reasoning behind it but yeah, I was pretty confident that it was not an accident, not at all.”
4. Her Daughters Spoke Out on ’20/20′
DeRoche and Reynolds speak out in the previews for tonight’s ABC News’ 20/20. DeRoche, in the interview, says she has no doubts her father was responsible. The interview was filmed in 2013.
“We knew what he had done to our mother,” DeRoche exclusively told 20/20. “And I knew what he did to my brother.”
She was just six years old when her mother died in the house fire, but she remembers hearing her mother call for their father to get the kids. She said that when she and Levi were around 11 or 12, they discussed the possibility that their father was lying about their mother’s death.
“Between the two of us…we knew, because he didn’t try,” Erin said. “He didn’t make an effort to save her. He just stood there.”
5. Her Sister Alleged Karl Karlsen Called Christina Names During Their Marriage
During the trial, Bousson testified that Karl Karlsen was controlling and possibly abusive toward his first wife. She told the story of taking her sister to go get glamour shots done, and when they returned to Christina’s home, she was immediately told to take off her makeup.
“The first thing he said to her was to ‘go take your makeup off. You look like a whore.’ She ran to the bathroom crying,” Bousson said, adding that the husband would often tease Christina about her weight and call her fat.
Tune in to ABC’s 20/20 to watch Christina’s daughters recall her memory and talk about their father.