Tonight on ABC’s 20/20, the daughters of Karl Karlsen, who killed his wife and son for insurance money, are speaking of what it was like growing up. Levi Karlsen was murdered by his father for a $700,000 insurance payout, and his children did not see any of the money following his death.
Karl Karlsen, Christina Karlsen and their three children lived in Calaveras County, California when their home was enveloped in flames on New Year’s Day in 1991.
Karl Karlsen’s 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.
Karl Karlsen is currently in prison. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for killing Levi, and he was then sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the murder of his first wife.
Karl Karlsen Received $707,000 in Life Insurance
When Karl Karlsen’s first wife died, he received $200,000 in life insurance money. He subsequently used that money to move the family from California to Seneca County, New York.
After Levi’s death, his father received $707,000 in life insurance from a new policy, but, according to their mother, Levi’s daughters never received any of it. His daughters are 17 and 15 years old.
A financial advisor told police in 2013 that Karl Karlsen and his wife, Cindy Karlsen, initially set the money aside into various funds for Levi’s daughters, but they later drained those accounts.
The Insurance Money Never Went to Levi’s Ex-Wife or Daughters
In 2013, Levi’s daughters were already beginning to ask questions about what happened to their father and where the money went.
“The other day she asked me, ‘If life insurance is supposed to take care of family members, shouldn’t Daddy have left that for us?'” Cassie Hohn said at the time. She explained to her daughter that that was the intention, but the money went to Karl and Cindy instead.
Hohn and Levi met when they were 16 years old and were married by the time they were 18. They had been married for five years and divorced just a few months before his death. Hohn said he had a hard time breaking away from his father, who she said at the time was domineering and abusive.
According to court records obtained by syracuse.com, Karl Karlsen beat Levi frequently, with Levi filing complaints against him as early as February 2000.
“He asked me whether I wanted to die or not,” Levi told police at the time. “I said no.”
Karl Karlsen Also Took Out Insurance Policies on His Grandchildren
Insurance documents revealed that Karl Karlsen also took out nearly $750,000 on his granddaughters.
“How easy it would have been for him to lure them up into that barn and have an accident with some of that equipment?” Cindy Karlsen said in 2013. “I can guarantee you that was one of his plans.”
Hohn said she didn’t know about the policy on Levi or the policies on her daughters until investigators told her in 2012.
“Karl could have signed them out of school and done something to them, and all we could have done is wait 24 hours to file a missing persons report,” Hohn said. “By then it would have been too late.”
Tune in to ABC’s 20/20 to see Levi’s sisters open up about the death of their family members and the conviction of their father.