A Connecticut man has been extradited from Maine to face charges for a 33-year-old cold-case murder. Marc Karun, 53, was taken into custody on June 12 at his home in Stetson, Maine and returned to Norwalk, Connecticut on June 14 after waiving his right to an extradition hearing. He faces charges for the 1986 rape and strangulation of 11-year-old Kathleen Marie Flynn. The sixth-grader had celebrated her birthday on September 4 and just started middle school.
A previously convicted sex offender, Karun has been charged with first-degree sexual assault and murder with special circumstances. His bail has been set at $5 million and his arraignment is scheduled for June 17. He faces life without parole if convicted.
Karun was apprehended outside his Stetson home. During the arrest, Maine State Police seized 88 illegally-owned rifles and handguns inside Karun’s residence. Although Karun was prohibited from owning firearms because he is a convicted felon, Maine prosecutors dropped the charges in order to expedite Karun’s return to Connecticut.
“We wish to thank the Norwalk police department for bringing Kathleen’s murderer to justice. This continues to be a very difficult time for us and we do not wish to make any further comments,” Kathleen’s family wrote in a statement provided to the Norwalk Police Department.
Here’s what you need to know about Marc Karun and the murder of Kathleen Flynn.
1. Kathleen Flynn Was Murdered on Her Way Home from School
At approximately 2:40 p.m. on September 23, 1986, Kathleen left Ponus Ridge Middle School and was seen walking towards her home, a half mile away. On that day, Kathleen took a shortcut along a paved pathway through a wooded area behind the school’s athletic fields.
When she didn’t arrive home, Kathleen’s mother Esther searched for her daughter, then contacted the police at 5:12 p.m. Local police and fire department teams were dispatched to scour the area. Kathleen’s body was discovered at 3:35 a.m. the following morning, approximately 130 feet from the footpath. Kathleen’s body was found covered with leaves, a stone had been placed on her chest and there were ligatures on her wrists.
“As I and others have told you many times, this is a sad situation that can happen at any time and at any place in Norwalk, Darien, New Canaan, Wilton, Westport or Weston — anywhere,” Ponus Ridge Middle School LeRoy Vaughn Principal told students during an assembly the day after Kathleen had been discovered. “That’s why you have to be on your guard every moment.”
2. Karun Had a History of Kidnapping and Sexual Assault
Karun had a history of kidnapping and violent sexual assault and had always been at the top of investigators’ suspect list. Eight months before Flynn’s murder, Karun was arrested for the kidnapping and rape of an 18-year-old woman. When she refused to testify in court, Karun was convicted of the much lesser charge of sexual assault in the fourth degree.
Karun was arrested again in April 1988 for the kidnapping and rape of a 16-year-old girl. In May 1988 he was charged with unlawful restraint, weapons in a motor vehicle and threatening after he picked up a 27-year-old female hitchhiker who he allegedly told to strip. The woman was able to steer Karun’s car off the road, escape and alert authorities.
One month later, Karun was charged with kidnapping, criminal attempt at sexual assault and possession of a dangerous weapon after he allegedly attacked a 41-year-old woman walking down a New Canaan road. When police searched his apartment they discovered 146 pornographic photos, a letter detailing a sexual assault and a pair of black nylon stockings. Karun eventually served 10 years of a 16-year-sentence and was mandated to register as a lifetime sex offender.
3. Karun Acted “Weird” and Made People Feel “Uncomfortable”
Karun, who grew up in Norwalk, was recognized by a few teachers at Ponus Ridge Middle School as a former student who had “many serious problems.” When he wasn’t in prison, Karun lived at various addresses around Connecticut in communities including West Norwalk, East Norwalk, Manchester, Rocky Hill, and Shelton.
Karun moved to the small town of Stetson, Maine in 2013. He lived at a home purchased by his parents in 2002 that had been placed in a trust for him. With a population of approximately 1,200, Karun quickly developed a reputation as being odd. Karun’s next-door neighbor recalled how he would regularly stand on the side of the road and salute people as they drove by.
People described Karun as having a frighteningly cold and vacant stare. “He made us all feel uncomfortable,” Stetson town registrar Catherine Fisher told WGME 13. According to Fisher, many community members were aware that he was on the permanent sexual offender registry for prior sexual assault convictions and feared him.
Rather than keeping to himself, Karun typically attended local government meetings. “I’m not surprised (by the arrest),” Selectman Millard Butler told WGME 13. “He’s always acted kind of weird, anyway.”
Several years earlier, Karun went to Fisher’s office and picked up an application to run as a candidate for the town’s local city council known as the Selectboard. Fisher said he did not return the papers nor did his name appear on the ballot.
4. DNA Evidence Helped Solve Kathleen Flynn’s Murder
The Hartford Courant reported that the Connecticut State crime lab got a hit when they compared old DNA samples from Kathleen’s case and got a match with DNA Karun had submitted while he was incarcerated. But it took over 30 years for technology to help detectives solve the murder.
In 1986, DNA analysis was still so new, investigators would have to wait for more sophisticated testing methods to become available. In 1990, DNA samples were taken to the state’s forensic lab however the lab said the samples provided could not be tested and the lab later disposed of the evidence.
In 2003 remaining samples were analyzed using newer mitochondrial DNA technology. Mitochondrial DNA testing traces a person’s matrilineal or maternal ancestry. A pubic hair recovered from Kathleen’s body determined that Karun could not be excluded as a suspect. In 2012, DNA found under Kathleen’s nails indicated again that Karun could not be excluded.
“Kathleen Flynn struggled with her assailant in an effort to free herself of the ligature around her neck,” Karun’s arrest warrant said. “More recent DNA testing of the fingernail scraping from the left thumb found that Karun could not be eliminated as the source due to low likelihood ratios and was inconclusive but the same tests were able to eliminate two persons of interest (with) these same DNA profiles,” the warrant added.
In 2017, Norwalk Police Sergeants Alex Tolnay and Art Weisgerber met Karun at the Penobscot County Sheriff’s office in Bangor, Maine to collect fresh DNA samples. Karun thought he was being called to check in with county law enforcement due to his sex offender status. Instead he was met by two Connecticut detectives who had a search warrant to collect his DNA. Karun provided the swab samples but refused to take part in an interview.
5. Detectives Saw Similarities between Flynn’s Case and Other Cases
In addition to DNA analysis, detectives carefully reviewed other evidence, which always seemed to bring them back to Karun as the lead suspect. They compared Kathleen’s case to the sexual assaults perpetrated by Karun. Like Kathleen, all of Karun’s victims had been disrobed below the waist and had their hands tied.
Karun lived near all of his victims and within two miles of Kathleen’s middle school and the Flynn home. Police believe he was also familiar with the shortcut Kathleen took through woods. “The areas provided Karun with easy access and the ability to reconnoiter and allow for some degree of control,” Karun’s arrest warrant said. “Several of the cases exhibit a similar geographical profile modus operandi and rituals to the Kathleen Flynn homicide in some form,” Karun’s warrant added.
Police interviewed Karun on October 9, 1986, after someone said they had seen a green vehicle in the area around the same time Kathleen Flynn disappeared. Karun drove a green vehicle in 1986.
Karun told police he did not know Flynn and had not committed the murder, but did say that he was a former Ponus Ridge student and had visited the school to chat with the librarian and several teachers on September 14. The school’s librarians and teachers were interviewed and told detectives they did not recall either seeing Karun on campus or speaking with him. Karun later recanted this story.
The Hartford Courant reported that detectives spoke with Karun’s first rape victim in 1992. The woman, who eventually dated Karun because she said she felt sorry for him, told the investigators that he’d revealed to her that he’d been on the school’s campus the day of Flynn’s disappearance but had not murdered her. “Karun would act like his mind snapped and his attitude would change from good to crazy and vicious,” she recalled.