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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  October 16, 2022 11:00pm-12:00am PDT

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>> i'm craig melville. >> i'm natalie morales. >> this is dateline.
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>> it was all surreal, it still is. things like that don't happen to small town people. i was very scared, i was worried that i was going to be next. >> he was the friendly former about to make it big on reality tv. >> he loved being on tv. >> a success to celebrate after so much loss, his first wife killed in an awful of fire. >> i was devastated this is my sister she was just this sweet giving person. >> they called it a horrible accident, but here is the thing. accidents just seemed to keep happening, deadly ones. >> these things kept coming up, intuitions that something wasn't right. >> wife number two had a growing suspicion. and she also had a plan. >> i had actually watched an episode of dateline and i had a revelation. >> a dangerous mission, was her own life at risk? >> this is a mystery that won't and, you couldn't write the story. hello and welcome to dateline. the death of a young mother in my house fire was almost too
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much for her family to bear. then, years later another devastating accident and another loved one gone. was this just a string of bad luck or the work of a calculating killer? here is andrea canning with deadly deceit. >> snapshots of a time gone by. capturing a life that could have been. now all that is left or the burned out remnants of the life that is gone. >> i've seen the destruction in my family. i have seen my parents fall apart. >> i didn't think my life was gonna turn out like this, at all. >> had this not come to a head now, the mystery would have lived on. the carlson family would have always wondered. wondered what really happened.
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>> the story begins here around the finger lakes, a stunning part of upstate new york. this is where the carlson family put down its roots. >> all right carl. >> and it's here that carl carlson brought his bride christina to meet his family in 1986. his brother mike took to her right away. >> she was small, tiny little girl, not very tall at all. very simple, sweetheart of a kid. >> christina and karl had met in north dakota where carl was stationed in the air force. he was discharged, they came to his home to make a life. >> was she a good fit to the carlson family? >> absolutely, yeah. she would give it out and take it.
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laugh on the way. >> stand right here, chris. >> they were a cute couple, christina the little cheerleader from california. carl the rough and ready country boy. christina's sister like the way carl made chris laugh. >> they would laugh and joke and he was this big barrel chested guy, and my sister four foot 11. >> he got work at the local quarry and it wouldn't be long before he knew christina had three kids. erin, levi and katie. >> she would be on the floor playing with them or teaching them or instruction them or coddling them. and it wasn't just her kids, it was all of our kids. >> look at those two lovely people over there. >> christina seemed happy, but carl wanted more than a life working in the quarry. christine's father, alexander, offered a ticket out. the job with a future working in his heating and air conditioning company. >> i said if you ever need a job just come on to california
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and you will have a job because you can work with me. >> so they moved all the way across the country to murphy's, an old mining town in the sierra foothills. carl found them a house at the top of this long winding road. it wasn't much but it was closer to collect and christina made it special. so >> she went into home decorating mode and started painting, so in curtains, every time i'd go up i would say wow, this looks really good. >> carl, thank you darling. >> christine and karl celebrated christmas with christina's family in 1990. but just a week later their lives will change forever. it was new year's day, 1991. >> i came outside saw the smoke from the house, i could see where the smoke was. >> carl and christine's house was on fire. carl said he had been in the garage but he rushed to the house.
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he pulled the kids out of their bedroom windows where they were napping. christina was trapped in the bathroom, flames ranging just outside the bathroom door. the window was boarded shot from the inside. by the time they arrived, the paramedics were on the scene. >> i got in the ambulance and looked around and said where is chris? and they told me, one of the kid said, she's with god or the angels took her, something like that. she wasn't there. >> art could only imagine the terror of her last moments on earth. he then placed one of the toughest calls he's ever made. >> i need to tell you something, he said there was a fire out of chris's house and everyone got out but chris. and i said, are you kidding me?
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and he said no. >> back in upstate new york the carlson family got the terrible news. so mike and his sister in law flew to california to help carl and the children who were all under the age of seven. >> i said i would help how i can, what can i do? and he was just numb. he was a zombie. he just said i don't know. >> are you thinking how in the world is my brother going to take care of these three little kids? >> right. i had no clue. >> carl spoke briefly with fire investigators, he said he wasn't sure how the fire started but he knew why it
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moved so fast. the pats had knocked over a container of kerosene a day before. carlton shared many other detailed with friends and family, and mike sensed it was hard for carl to deal with anything important. so after a while, mike pressed him a bit. >> what are we doing, if we're gonna stay in california, you need to arrange for an apartment, you need to get supplies, get the have settled. the kids need some form of stability here. and that's when he said i just want to go home. >> so four days after the fire, carl packed up his three children and flew back to upstate new york. it was yet a northern blow for christina's grieving family. >> my sister and i had made a commitment to each other that our kids were going to grow up knowing each other. and then it was stripped. in five days. >> all christina's father had left of his beloved daughter was this box of charred photos that he rescued from the house. reminders of her and the grandchildren he loved. >> after her death, i was more dead than alive. i didn't pay attention to a lot of things that i should have, but i'm muddled through. i didn't care. >> hobbled by grief he also felt a helpless and maybe point this anger towards his
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son-in-law. and wondered why didn't carl do more to save christina that terrible day. >> there was a pit laying in front of a tree upfront, somebody wanted to pull a border off of the window, you just had to take a pit, pull it off. >> before the children, aaron, katie and levi, our would contain his anger and keep the family piece. but what happened in that little house on the hill would come back to haunt christina's family for the years to come. >> another painful loss is about to hit this family, one that none of them expected. coming up. >> we just got home. and i don't think he's alive. you don't think he's alive? >> no. >> when dateline continues. in type 2 diabetes could progress to dialysis is important. b is for belief that there may be more you can do. just remember that k is for kidneys and kerendia. for adults living with ckd in type 2 diabetes, kerendia is proven to reduce the risk of kidney failure, which can lead to dialysis. kerendia is a once-daily tablet that treats ckd differently than type 2 diabetes medications to help slow the progression of kidney damage
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michael is back. and he's more dangerous. maybe the only way he can die... is if i die too. [ screaming ] >> the finger lakes region of
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upstate new york was karl carlson's family home, and now he was back to stay. here in senate county he would rebuild his life among the farms, the fields, the vineyards and old friends. does everyone in the area know the carlson family? >> probably most of seneca county knows one or all of us? >> carl's wife was gone but he still had his three little kids to think about. >> he went back to work at the quarry for a while. and then saw an opportunity in a local glass manufacturing plant that had just opened. >> was there a lot of concern for carl having just lost his wife? >> i think everybody realize that this poor guy isn't going to do it on his own. >> so people helped out.
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here in seneca county, he was surrounded by a big extended family in a place where the carlson name really meant something. and it all seemed to come together for him when he met cindy best aunt -- at a party in 1992. >> he told me he lost his wife at a fire and he was a single dad raising three kids on his own. >> cindy got herself an instant family when she married carl in 1983. >> between the farm and the glass job, carl was busy. cindy was desperate to have a child of her own sushi and karl went through in vitro fertilization. you were going to have the baytieh who had always wanted. >> happiest time of my life. yup. >> and the big kids were happy to when their baby brother alex was born.
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as the years went by alex says he and his big brother levi developed a special bond. >> he was always there for me, always love to hang out together. >> levi, erin and katie's family from california stayed in touch, they even visited, there and colette got to know the girls and got a kick out of levi. >> leave i had this really quirky personality, he was a prankster. he also had my sisters very sweet spirit. >> levi's life wasn't easy. he had problems at school and he and karl begin to butt heads. >> i think levi booked the system a little bit, he was a typical teenage boy who knew all the answers, but it seemed more levi struggled in his
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world, carl held him down. rather than trying to pick him up. >> the rift widened and in may of 2000 into, when levi was only 17, he left home. his uncle mike watched it happen with a tinge of sadness. >> he dropped out of school, which didn't help things at all. he jumped and didn't look where he was jumping to so he didn't have a job. he floated from house to house, to different family members. >> leave eventually met a girl named cassie and was living with her when disaster struck the carlson family again. it happened in november of 2002 as cindy remembers it, carl was just coming to bed.
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>> he sat upright and looked out of the window and said you know, oh my god, call 9-1-1, the barn is on fire. >> cindy did call 9-1-1 and her brother in law. >> what's the carl say to you when you arrived? >> he mentioned that the horses were still in there. >> the carlson's had been breeding belgian horses, their loss and the loss of the old barn was devastating to the family. levi exploded, he said some terrible things and he and karl came to blows. >> levi got in his truck to get away from carl and karl chased after him. i was yelling at carl, just let him go, leave him alone. let him go. >> but levi was never able to stay away for long, he ended cassie included carl in the rest of the family in their
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wedding in 2003. the young couple soon had two daughters, but it may have been too much, too fast. the marriage didn't last. >> it was just a bad divorce, neither one of them was nice to each other. >> but like many kids, levi's started to grow up. he got his ged, started working and tried hard to be a good dad. and perhaps in being a father -- -- -to-severe eczema it hasn't always been easy,... ...since my skin was so irritated and itchy... ...and even worse with all my gear on. now, i'm staying ahead of my eczema. there's a power inside all of us to live our passion. and dupixent works on the insie to help heal your skin from within. it helps block a key source of inflammation inside the body that can cause eczema. so adults can have long-lasting clearer skin
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are you with your son right now? >> he's not alive. >> is he breathing? >> no. >> he is not breathing? okay. >> no. >> another catastrophe had struck the carlson's. levi was trapped under a truck in the barn. >> his chest is crushed. >> his chest is crushed. >> his chest is crushed? >> he's probably been under here for hours. >> carl's brother, mike, rushed over. >> they were just bringing levi out on the stretcher and putting him into the ambulance when i got there. >> levi was taken to the hospital, but the family knew it was hopeless.
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17 years after his mother's terrible death, levi carlson had died at the age of 23. cindy says coral came unhinged. >> he was thrown himself up against the wall and he was on the ground. >> so many tears and so many questions. >> how could leave vibe had been so careless? we >> went into the barn to see, the truck was in a very precarious, dangerous scenario. no blocks under it. flimsy little jack holding it up. >> you are thinking leave i should've known better than this, he knows his way around --
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>> absolutely. >> now, once again, carl carlson had to pull himself out of the depths of tragedy, it would take a while but this time he seemed to come out of it a changed man. carl got fired up by a new plan to start a gourmet duck farm, and began raising thousands of ducks to sell to new york restaurants. he and cindy even found themselves starring in an episode of pitching in, a food network candidate series. >> he had these visions that he was going to be a famous person, rich and famous. >> cindy watched her husband's ego swell with all of the attention, and she worried, that it had been less than the year since levi died. yet carl seem to be having the time of his life.
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was that normal? >> just like an intuition that something just was not right. >> she kept thinking about the day levi died, it turns out mike was an easy about it to. what did carl say to you after levi's death? >> not a lot. i went to the hospital and i was in the room with levi, and karl came into the room, and i don't know what i wanted him to say but he says how do i explain this? >> what do you mean by that? >> no idea. >> mike didn't share his misgivings about carl with cindy, but she had plenty of her own. she fought them for a while until one day she had to admit to herself. >> oh my god, i think he did it. but then i would also talk myself out of it, i would tell myself, you know, you're crazy, we weren't even home at the time. >> officials called it an accident, and yet -- >> i kept getting these
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thoughts. kept sinking more in a depression and eventually i ended up using alcohol as a way to cope. >> cindy confided in a couple of friends, they dismissed her fear, but someone did suggest she call a private investigator, that's how she met steve brown. >> she walked through the door and she looked very frail, physically, emotionally. sickly, week. >> cindy told the private investigator about her crazy fear that her husband had killed his own son. >> cindy proceeded to tell me what happened that day in 2008. >> and she remembered something, before she and karl left for the funeral he went to the barn to see levi, and for a few minutes he was a loan there with his son. >> carl said he wanted to check on levi before they left, and karl had came back to the vehicle and they drove off to funeral, carl seemed fine the entire time, normal behavior. >> but when they came home from the funeral, cindy noticed something else. >> we got out of the car and the first thing that i heard was the radio in the barn, and it was very loud and it was set on country music, and anybody
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that knew levi, he would not be caught listening to country music. >> whoever turned the radio on, it probably wasn't levi. could it have been carl? the private investigator found the story troubling and it set his mind racing about carl. >> i was pretty quiet the rest of the night, just dissecting how could that be? how could somebody do something like that? -- we protected that progressive home & auto bundle day and night. we were all of us dazzling... like knights sworn to protect our kingdom. we knew it wouldn't last forever, but... that's what made it special -- you know we'll be back tomorrow, right? yeah, but it'll never be today again. -[ groaning ] -just get on the bus, flo! ♪ ♪
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in iran, at least four people of mcallen doesn't injured after a fire took place in a president. ron akin to state media to blaze kept as iran battles internal unrest over the death of a teenager in place custody. georgia senate candidate, herschel walker, does nbc that the sheriffs identification onstage last week's nunnery batch. the sheriff confirmed that walker had indeed been listed. now back to dateline.
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now back to dateline >> welcome back to dateline, i'm craig melville. it was a stunning realization, cindy carlson believed that her husband karl had killed his son levi. so did the private investigator she hired to look into the young man's death. armed with a few tactics, she actually learned from dateline, cindy would actually take on a dangerous mission, confronting the man she feared. once again, here is andrea canning with deadly deceit. >> in november 2011, private investigator steve brown had decided it was time to meet carl carlson. so he and cindy came up with an audacious plan. >> i said, what if i kind of go undercover and be friend carl, if you will, as a marketer, our promoter for your duck business. >> it was a giant step for cindy and risky. what if carl found out who steve really was? no clue this was a private investigator?
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>> right. and when he came to the house i had to pretend like i was just meeting him for the first time. >> i just said, you know, where are you now, where will you be in a couple of years, and carl started saying his dream for the duck business, if you will. >> after that, steve said he and karl would drive around the area talking business mostly, but one moment stood out when carl was talking about killing for animals. >> he said i like the old-fashioned way and he came up behind me lifted my head up and went like this with his hand, he said messy, very physical, and i said karl we are talking about ducks and chickens aren't we? >> steve didn't want to contact the police until he had more evidence, but in february 2012, the decision was taken out of his hands when cindy confided in her cousin. >> i told her my suspicions but i asked her not to say anything.
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>> despite that, the cousin promptly called the sheriff's office. john clear was the detective who took the call, he wasted no time in contacting cindy carlson. how did that go? >> the first thing she said is thing got you called. >> thank god you called, you know, i was so believed. >> detective clear met with cindy carlson and steve brown, and he paid particular attention when they told him that levi who never had much money had taken out an enormous life insurance policy. >> the most useful piece of information was about 700,000 dollar plus insurance policy that was paid out under lee by carlson. >> detective clear learned that on november 3rd 2008 karl helped levi sign up for the policy, the beneficiary, carl himself. >> he actually takes him to see an insurance agent and takes out approximately 400,000 dollar life insurance policy with a 300,000 dollar x in a rider, 17 days later, the fatal accident happened. >> the money was supposed to go
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to levi's two daughters, but detective clearly learned the girls never got a dime. >> there was money spent on a lot, home improvement, carl spent a lot of money on the duck business. there were some huge payouts on that. >> as he dug deeper, detective clear discovered that carl carlson had collected on a number of insurance policies over the years. in 1986, carlson you dodge charger caught fire, carl collected $10,000. the fire that killed the horses and took down the barn? paid out nearly $115,000. clear also learned that carlson had taken out policies on levi's two little girls. carl had no idea he was being investigated, but cindy still wanted to get away from him, so she moved out of the house, after she did, carl sent her a text saying that he had heard she had been snooping around. she says it scared her. >> it was a threatening text i
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can't remember exactly what he said, but it was an off to make me feel like i just couldn't do it anymore. >> she immediately call her son alex then 16, and told him that they had to leave town. >> she came and got me and i came out to the car and i saw that she had packed all of our suitcases, and our dogs were in the car. and she had told me that there was an investigation going on because they thought my dad had killed my brother. >> they started living in hotels, cindy dodged carles calls and so that alex. but after a few months of that, cindy decided to do something a little more proactive. she had an inspiration, i had watching episode of dateline where this woman was recording this mother and i had this revelation, i said i'm going to start recording conversations with carl. i start if i could just get him to confess about the barn fire, that that would show his
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character. >> cindy knew carl wanted to see her, maybe get back together. so she went to meet him at a local restaurant, with a small voice recorder tucked under her bra. >> i just started telling him that i was considering getting back together with him, but i couldn't even consider it unless he started telling me the truth. of things that he did. and he said to me, it sounds like you want to me to say that i had something to do with levi's death. well, at that moment i knew for that we skipped right over the bar and fire, i might be able to make him confess about levi's. so i asked him did you push the truck, or was it hard to push, and he said no, it wasn't. >> was that a confession? cindy felt like it was.
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she rushed the recording over to the police. but it wasn't audible, and therefore useless. still, detective clear believed her and not to ask her to do it again. >> i request she agreed to be wired up to do a second interview under controlled circumstances. >> now she was working with the police to take down her own husband. she got away with it once, but would carl catch on the next time around? >> coming up. >> i had to convince him that, you know, it wasn't a trap. >> but could she? when dateline continues. thin is our best yet. it wicks gushes 90% faster and absorbs even more. for up to 100% leak-free and odor-free comfort. this is triple protection from always. [school bells] when pain says, “i'm here,” i say, “so are they.”
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♪♪ aleve - who do you take it for? >> cindy karlsen was willing to
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play the sympathetic wife with a man she had come to fear and hate. that was how badly she wanted her husband out of her life and locked away. so when police asked her to wear a wire and meet him for lunch again, she jumped at the chance >> i was actually calm. because i knew that karl believed my story of wanting to get back together. >> abigail's restaurant near seneca falls would be the meeting place. it was mid november 2012. >> so you had undercover officers in the restaurant? >> we had four. >> where they waiters? >> diners. >> there was very little
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evidence against karl karlsen. so the detectives desperately needed cindy to get him to repeat what she complained claimed was his confession. but karl was suspicious. >> part of me feels like i'm walking into a booby trap. >> well, i can imagine you would feel that way. i had to convince him that, you know, it wasn't a trap. i offered for him to check my purse. and then she got him back to the subject of that day in 2008. >> i asked you if you push the truck and you said yes. >> i didn't push the truck, i said. no, i had nothing to do with it. but i asked and said i took advantage of the situation once it happened. >> karl, you told me, that why you didn't set it up that way, but when you are in the, you saw the opportunity. >> no, after it happened, i
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panicked and saw the opportunity. >> reporter: the detective was struck by that exchange. how could a father called this an opportunity? >> i understood then, this is someone who doesn't think like wheat do. >> reporter: but this exchange was no confession and the evidence so far was circumstantial. the insurance, the radio, calls video visit to the barn. still, detectives believe they had enough to bring him in for questioning. >> have a seat. >> reporter: it was the moment of truth, if carlson called in a lawyer, the case could evaporate. but couldn't karl resist talking about himself. >> i work multiple jobs, stuff like that. and yes, i worked my butt off. >> he liked talking about his favorite object, him. >> reporter: karl said he found levy dead after returning home, just like he told police in 2008. >> i went there. and that --
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you know, we went to the hospital. >> what do you mean you found him? >> i found him dead. the truck was on him. >> reporter: i karl insisted that it was an accident. >> you don't kill your son for money. >> the detective decided to change tactics. >> we were like, what does he play to? what does he have? he has an ego. that's a big one. so that's a strategy that we shifted to. it gave him sympathy and attention. >> reporter: it seemed to work. as the hours ticked by, and his story seemed to change. >> version two came out. he admitted that levi was already dead before they left to go to the funeral. >> i made the decision to walk out on my son and not get him out from underneath the truck. >> why? >> at that point, there's no doubt in my mind what happened here.
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>> reporter: detectives continue to push. and as the interrogation stretched into its eight hour, karlsen finally broke. he admitted he didn't just find levi under the truck. he saw the truck fall and he may have even caused it to fall. >> i knew it was inside the linkage for the truck. and when i did it tipped it over and it just fell over. >> reporter: then, clear pushed more and that's when we karl admitted he left his son to die. >> whatever your intent was -- >> i -- >> the action you took caused the truck to fall on him. >> yes. >> and the inaction of leaving him there -- >> right. contributed or whatever. >> so he wasn't painting himself as a cold, calculating killer. >> no, he seemed to think it was a better picture to say, i accidentally caused this thing
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to fall, and then left him to die on the floor. >> reporter: karl karlsen was charged with second degree murder. not long after, he got a lawyer. he headed to court and on the way used a walker, claiming old injuries were acting up. the cindy tapes, his lawyers argued, violated spousal privilege. but the defense deny the motion -- all these years, mike karlsen had misgivings about karl's behavior but after watching the interrogation video, his worst fear was cemented. that his own brother was a killer. and now, he had a new fear. but >> reporter: as the trial approached, did you think the evidence was overwhelming? and that it was pretty clear that karl was going to go away? >> i was probably more scared as the trial approached, that
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it wasn't a slam dunk. >> coming up -- on surprise inside and outside the courtroom. >> we've been riding just about 24 years now, for conclusion. >> reporter: when "dateline" continues. but my body was telling a different story. i felt all people saw were my uncontrolled movements. some mental health meds can cause tardive dyskinesia, or td, and it's unlikely to improve without treatment. ingrezza is a prescription medicine to treat adults with td movements in the face and body. it's the only treatment for td that's one pill, once-daily, with or without food. ingrezza 80 mg is proven to reduce td movements in 7 out of 10 people. people taking ingrezza
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can stay on their current dose of most mental health meds. don't take ingrezza if you're allergic to any of its ingredients. ingrezza may cause serious side effects including sleepiness. don't drive, operate heavy machinery, or do other dangerous activities until you know how ingrezza affects you. other serious side effects include potential heart rhythm problems and abnormal movements. it's nice people focus more on me. ask your doctor about ingrezza, #1 prescribed for td. learn how you could pay as little as zero dollars at with new chapter multi-vitamin gummies, you get so much more than just... mmm. ... more nutrients. more research and more organic ingredients. you also get less sugar and that means less candy posing as vitamins. new chapter. that's wellness, well done. >> in the winter of 2012, as
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the seneca county attorney was ready to prosecute carl, new york investigators had become deeply interested in that long ago california fire that killed levi's mother, christina. they were suspicious about carlson's behavior that day. christina's family was more than suspicious. they were certain carl killed christina. jeff arnold was the new york state investigator, he thought so too. why did you take such an in stressed in christina's death when you're here in new york state, that cases in california? >> it became personal to me because she was a great human being who had everything to look for two in life. >> investigator arnaud was asked to help out early in the carlson investigation, and he
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took a particular interest in christina and the fire that killed her. >> just imagine yourself, here in this bathroom taking a bath, and you smell smoke, and it's coming through your door and there is an inferno outside of your door you turn to the only window in the bathroom and it is covered with a sheet of plywood. >> investigator arnold said that pretty much everything carl carlson has ever said about the fire is ally. beginning with the kerosene that fueled it. >> he says that the kerosene got spilled in the house on sunday. >> that was a few days before the fire. >> but a california arson vest a gator from carpet stain that showed a second career scenes bill happened moments before the fire started. investigator arnold said that could only mean one thing.
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>> carl poured the kerosene all over the clothes and all over the floor and ignited, within seconds after pouring it. >> back in 1991, carlson told law enforcement that it could've been a heater or a utility light that touch the blaze. >> none of it happened. >> he learned the arson investigator could find no accidental ignition source, the investigators conclusion? the fire was deliberately set. the coroner's report said christina died of smoke inhalation as opposed to burns. raising the question, didn't carlson have time to save his wife? >> he's standing on the porch within a foot or two from this plywood covered window, where christine is in dire need of his health. he doesn't even reach for one tool.
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>> arnold knew that christine's family had always wondered about that window, and about some other things that happened after she died. collect told police something christina's little daughter erin said right after the fire. >> she said i heard mommy calling for daddy, but daddy just drove away, so within an hour, and hearing my knees telling me that hey mom was alive when he drove away. >> just four days after the fire, carl carlson abruptly left california with his three kids, aaron, katie and levi. sources in california told us that once carlson was back in new york, investigators begged their bosses to let them follow him for questioning. they said that they were told no, the county couldn't afford it. >> the investigators wanted to
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go to new york, congress county wouldn't let them spend the money. >> just weeks after they left, colette learned that carl had taken a 200,000 dollar insurance policy on christina's life. and the policy paid off. colette came to believe that carlson killed christina for the same reason he killed levi. meng. two decades after christina's death, carl carlson dueled with detectives in that interrogation room, he suddenly had to face questions about that long ago fire with a well prepared jeff arnold. >> tom was telling me about a fire with your first wife that concern him. >> arnold was looking for in consistencies, lies, he asked carlson about the window. >> so when did you -- boarded that up? days before. >> months before. >> months before? >> months before.
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>> we have a witness that shows up at the house on the 31st of december, one day before the fire and that window was not boarded up. >> carlson also told arnold he suffered off injuries as he rescued his children, and that the fire was so intense that he couldn't save christina. >> what happens is when i broke the window, i got hit with a fireball. it took me right in the face. blew me off the front porch. burnt my eyelids together. burnt skin off my face. burned my mustache, any whiskers i had, hair. >> did it take you to the hospital? >> oh yeah. >> what hospital did you go to? >> i don't even know. >> arnold had evidence i carlson escape the fire with only a small burn. so now, after he listened to carl to talk about the fire, the window and the rescue of his children, he fired back. >> you're watching a boarded up a little room, and you hear her calling your name --
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>> it wasn't calling, it was screaming. >> screaming your name. and yet you're able to get blown off of the porch, open your eyes, your sons uninjured, you're able to grab -- without a mark on him. take him out of the house. run around, miraculously save your two daughters and let your wife -- let your wife perish in this fire. >> i didn't -- let >> with no time to rip that ply booed board off that house? >> by that time the fire was all the way around, what am i going to do? >> carlson insisted his first wife's death was a tragic accident, that's the same thing he was seeing about levi's death, but on november six 2013, the very day his trial and levi's case was supposed to
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begin, he surprised nearly everyone, and took a plea. >> carl carlson pled guilty to murder to the second degree in the seneca county court, taking responsibility for the death of his son levi. >> the da said carlson would be given the minimum sentence, 15 years to life. at that same news conference, levi's sisters aaron and katie thank the investigation team, but then errant turn to the tragedy that shattered her childhood and changed her family forever. >> we've been waiting just about 24 years now for some closure for things that transpired in california, you know? things that i will never be able to forget, things that my
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family, they'll never be able to overcome. >> it appeared someone was listening. in 2014, karl carlson was charged with first degree murder in the 1991 death of his wife christina, he was extradited to calaveras county in california where he pleaded not guilty. then, in january 2020, the case went to trial, the prosecution made the case that carlson killed christina for the same reason he killed levi. >> the life insurance. life insurance on his wife or $200,000. >> just three weeks after carl took out that policy, christina was dead. this was his plan, the da said, this was carlson's deadly ammo. but now it was the defenses turn to fight back. carl's attorneys told jurors they couldn't draw any conclusions based on carl's guilty plea in levi's death.
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>> does carl carlson deserve a fair trial? now, some people would say well, he admitted to killing his son in new york, he doesn't deserve a fair trial. and to that i would say, if you believe that today based just on that fact, we have an obligation to let the court know that you can't be fair. >> now it was up to the jurors. deliberations lasted two days, and then the verdict came in. >> we the jury find the defendant carl carlson guilty of murder in the first degree. >> inside the courtroom, christina's family clung to each other in relief. her sister colette was there too. >> when they read it, it was a good moment. >> carl carlson was later sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. his appeal his conviction, 29 years after a fire to cristina carlson's life, her family, finally, has answers. but even time, they say, doesn't heal all wounds. >> i don't think you can put a time when you would miss some of the most. the memories are good, i still have her pictures up around my home, and i'm not gonna take those down. -- -- >> i'm craig melvin. >> and i'm natalie morales. >> and this is dateline. >> i didn't see it coming. it was shocking. >> i had a bad feeling. >> she did say, he has a gun


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