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Cold case charges after 23 years

Not a comfy chair
Photo by Mike Simons/Getty Images

Twenty three years ago in 1991 Christina Karlsen died in what was then described as an accidental fire at the home she shared with her husband Karl and their three children in Murphy's California in Calaveras County. The only fatality in the fire was Christina with her husband Karl leading the three children to safety.

Yesterday Aug. 29, 2014, the Calaveras District Attorney issued a media release noting the reopening of an investigation into the death of Christina. The resurgence of the case was prompted by the death of her son, Levi Karlsen, in New York and the subsequent guilty plea by Karl Karlsen in Levi's death due to his father Karl knocking a car over which Levi was working on and being crushed. In Christina's 1991 case, there was a $200,000 insurance payout, and in Levi's 2008 death there was a $700,000 insurance payout to Karl Karlsen.

Karl Karlsen plead guilty one day before his trial on second degree murder charges in Seneca, New York was scheduled to begin. He was sentenced to 15 years to life by the judge in the case on Monday Dec 16, 2013, the judge in the case is reported also to have stated Karl was not "fully human".

The Calaveras District Attorney's office is handling the investigation rather than the Calaveras Sheriff due to the ambiguous nature of whether or not they will be able to find just cause, beyond a reasonable doubt that Karl Karlsen also murdered his wife in 1991, along with his son Levi seventeen years later.

During the onset to Karl's trial in New York, his defense attorney tried to have the recordings which were made by Karlsens second wife Cindy ruled as inadmissible in court. Two recordings were made, the first being made at a restaurant on Nov. 14, 2012 according to syracuse.com at the time.

The prosecution of the case after such a long time may prove difficult, however, there are indications which were uncovered at the time of Christina's death that it may not have been an accident. Karl had nailed plywood over the bathroom window of the mining cabin which they were living in at the time just days before what had initially been determined to be an accidental fire. Christina was trapped in that same bathroom when the fire occurred.