A New York Woman Got Her Husband To Confess To Killing His Own Son

It took years before Cindy Best worked up the nerve to confront her husband about the death of her stepson.

Levi Karlsen, pictured here, was killed by his father in November 2008.

It took years before Cindy Best worked up the nerve to confront her husband about the death of her stepson.

Photo by: Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (Screenshot from ID's "Evil Lives Here")

Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc. (Screenshot from ID's "Evil Lives Here")

When Cindy Best met Karl Karlsen at a bar in Seneca Falls, New York, she was smitten. They talked for hours that night, and he opened up to her immediately; he was a single dad with three children — two sons and a daughter. They’d recently moved back to his hometown after his wife died in a house fire in California. Karl told Cindy he’d been unable to save her because she’d become trapped in the bathroom because of the flames.

It was a quick romance. Cindy fell hard for him and the pair married nine months after meeting. A local judge was their officiant, and the children were the attendees.

Cindy soon learned that Karl had a tendency to lie, and she often caught him in lies about bank loans and why their accounts were overdrawn. He got angry and denied the accusations when confronted, but would then relent, admit what he had done and apologize while swearing he would never do it again.

He always did it again, and the fights about money were a constant part of Cindy and Karl’s marriage.

An incident at their farm made Cindy think that Karl might be capable of more than just lying about the bank accounts, though. Karl bought an expensive Belgian horse with plans to breed her and make money from the foals. Instead, their new horse was actually infertile.

On a night not too long after they realized the horse would not be a lucrative addition to the farm, Cindy woke up and realized Karl wasn’t in bed. When he returned, he’d clearly been downstairs and told her that he’d gone downstairs to use the bathroom. She didn’t believe him; they had an upstairs bathroom, and it was common for him to lie about having a snack from the kitchen in the middle of the night, and she rolled over and went back to sleep. She’d just dozed back off when Karl woke her up screaming that the barn was on fire.

When the dust settled, investigators determined the cause of the fire to be an accident caused by an old radio and Karl got a $100,000 insurance payout to compensate him for the damage at the barn and the loss of the animals.

Upping the ante

Karl and his sons, especially his oldest, Levi, had a tumultuous relationship through their teen years. Levi left home at 17, got married, and had two children of his own by the time he was 23. That seemed to mend Levi and Karl’s relationship some. They began spending time with one another periodically, and Karl helped Levi get a job at the local glass factory.

In November 2008, Levi brought his truck to the farm so he could use his father’s tools to work on it while Karl and Cindy were gone to her aunt’s funeral. When they returned, Karl said he was going to check on Levi and found him crushed to death underneath his pickup truck. The incident was declared to be a tragic accident, but a sickening thought ran through Cindy’s head when Levi’s $700,000 life insurance payout was deposited into Karl’s account: what if Karl was responsible for all of these accidents?

The panic eventually caused her to move out of the home, and she hatched a plan to get Karl to admit that he’d had something to do with Levi’s death while she secretly recorded. It wasn’t hard; he willingly told her what happened when she asked.

In 2013, when Karl was 53, he pleaded guilty to murdering Levi and received a 15-year sentence. Seven years later, he was convicted in California of killing his first wife by trapping her in a bathroom and setting the house on fire. He was sentenced to life in prison for her murder. When he is released from prison in New York for Levi’s murder, he will be transferred to California to serve out the remainder of his life.

For more on this case, stream Evil Lives Here: "Is This the Night I Die?" on Max.

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