Dateline   |  January 17, 2014

'Deadly Deceit' part 4

Cindy Karlsen and her private investigator hatch a plan to trick her husband Karl.  Will Karl catch on?

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> in november, 2011 , private investigator steve brown had decided it was time to meet carl carlson . so he and cindy came one an audacious -- came up with an audacious plan.

>> i said, well, what if kind of go undercover and befriend carl , if you will, as a marketer, 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?

>> correct. right. 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 do you want to be in a couple years. carl started telling his vision, his dream for the duck business, if you will.

>> after that, he and carl would drive around the area talking business mostly. one moment stood out when carl was talking about killing farm animals .

>> he said, "i like the old-fashioned way," and he came up behind me and lifted my neck and went like this with his hand. he said, "messy, very physical." i said, " carl , we're talking about ducks and chickens, aren't we?"

>> steve didn't want to contact the police until he had more evidence. but this 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.

>> despite that, the cousin promptly phoned the sheriff's office. detective john clear who took the call wasted no time in phoning cindy carlson . how did that go?

>> first thing she said was, "thank god you called."

>> thank god you called. you know, i was so relieved.

>> detective clear met with cindy carlson and steve brown . 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 a $700,000-plus insurance policy that was paid out on levi carlson .

>> detective clear learned that on november 3rd , 2008 , carl helped levi sign up for the policy. the beneficiary -- carl himself.

>> he actually takes him to see an insurance agent and takes out approximately a $400,000 life insurance policy with a $300,000 accident rider. 17 days later, the fatal accident happens.

>> the money was supposed to go levi 's two daughters. but detective clear learned the girls never got a dime.

>> there was money spent on a lot -- a multitude of things. home improvement , and 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 carl carlson had collected on a number of insurance policies over the years. in 1986 , carl 's new 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. she moved out of the house. after she did, carl sent her a text saying that he had heard she had been snooping around. highway is says it scared her -- she says it scared her.

>> it was a threatening text. i can't remember exactly what he said. it was enough to make me feel like i just couldn't do it anymore.

>> she immediately called her son, alex, then 16, and told him they had to leave town.

>> she came and got me, and i came out to the car. i saw that she had packed all of our suitcases and our dogs were in the car. highway is told me that there was -- she 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 carl 's calls, and so did alex. after a few months of that, cindy decided to do something a little more proactive. and she had an inspiration.

>> i had actually watched an episode of "dateline" where this woman was recording her mother. and i like had this revelation, and i said, you know, i'm going to start recording conversations with carl . i thought if i could just get him to confess about the barn fire that that would show his 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 that 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 me to say that i had something to do with levi 's death." at that moment, i knew that we skipped right over the barn fire. i might be able to get him to confess about levi . asked him, so did you push the truck, or it was hard to push? and he said, no, it wasn't.

>> was that a confession? cindy felt like it was. she rushed the recording to the police, but it was inaudible and, therefore, useless. still, detective clear believed her enough to ask her to do it again.

>> at our 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. would carl catch on the next time around?