NY Man on Trial for Son's Murder Says He Left Him to Die in Never-Before-Heard Tapes

Karl Karlsen faces second-degree murder, insurance fraud charges.

ByABC News
October 7, 2013, 5:53 PM

Oct. 7, 2013— -- A central New York man, who is awaiting trial for the death of his son, is heard saying on never-before-heard tapes obtained by ABC News that he accidentally caused a truck to fall on his son, crushing him, and then left him to die.

Karl Karlsen, 52, is in a jail cell in Waterloo, N.Y., facing charges of second-degree murder and insurance fraud in the death of his son. Karlsen has pleaded not guilty.

In 2008, Karlsen's 23-year-old son Levi Karlsen was crushed to death when the truck he was working on slipped off its jack and landed on top of him.

While wearing a wire in a crowded restaurant last year, Cindy Karlsen, Karl's second and now estranged wife, asked her husband to tell the truth about his son's death. On the tapes, Karlsen said he had removed his truck's front tires and raised it on a single jack before Levi volunteered to do the repair.

The tapes, which had been played in court, had never been played publicly until now.

"I didn't push the truck, I said," Karlsen continued after Cindy pressed him for answers about Levi's death. "No, I said I had nothing to do -- but I said I took advantage of the situation once it happened."

With what police saw as incriminating statements captured on Cindy's audio recordings, they brought Karlsen in for questioning. During a nearly 10-hour interview, investigators said Karlsen denied killing his son 75 times, and that he's given several explanations for his son's death, including that he accidentally knocked the pickup truck off the jack and onto his son.

First, Karlsen is heard saying on police interrogation tapes obtained by ABC News that he had found his son's body earlier but didn't call police.

"I found him dead," Karlsen said. "I f---ing panicked. I don't know. I don't know."

When investigators asked Karlsen what he meant when he said he "panicked," Karlsen said, "I left him."

During the interrogation, Karlsen complained of feeling sick and needing pain medication, saying he has panic attacks. But finally he told police he had been there when the truck fell on his son.

"I opened the truck door because I had to get inside to move the linkage for the f---ing truck, and when I did, it tipped, and it just, whoosh, f---ing fell over," Karlsen said in the interrogation tapes.

But while he did admit he caused the truck to fall on his son during the police interrogation, investigators said Karlsen maintains it was an accident.

"He did admit that he caused the truck to fall on his son. He did admit that he left his son on the floor dying, but he never admitted that it was a planned, deliberate act," said Seneca County Lt. Investigator John Cleere.

Levi's death was initially ruled an accident in 2008. Police said Karlsen collected a $700,000 life insurance payout after the incident and that Levi had signed a handwritten will before his death, leaving everything to his father. But at the time, authorities said they didn't know about the life insurance policy or the will.

"The officers at the scene didn't see anything out of the ordinary," Cleere said. "They saw what appeared to be two grieving parents and what appeared to be an accident."

Police said Cindy Karlsen had her suspicions about Levi's death, especially after she said she learned that Karlsen had taken out a life insurance policy on her worth $1.2 million.