Killer disputes 90-year sentence
Wildwood man shot his parents
By M. Daniel Gibbard
Tribune staff reporter
Published December 3, 2004
The man responsible for one of Lake County's most notorious crimes will be back in court in Waukegan on Friday, attempting to have his sentence tossed out.
William Carlson, 30, killed his parents, Paul and Sandra Carlson, in 1990 at the family home in Wildwood. In 1992, he pleaded guilty to killing his father and was sentenced to 90 years in prison. He is an inmate at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet.
Friday's hearing is the latest twist in the Carlson murders, which shocked residents over and over as the case took several turns.
On Oct. 24, 1990, William "Willie" Carlson, 16, rented a handgun for $100 from fellow students at Warren Township High School in Gurnee, said Chief Deputy State's Atty. Jeff Pavletic.
He went home and waited, Pavletic said.
When Paul Carlson, 35, entered the house, his son shot him twice: once in the back of the head and in the forehead after he fell.
He waited an hour for his mother to come home with his father dead on the dining room floor.
When Sandra Carlson, 41, came into the house, William shot her in the face, killing her, and raped her.
A former Lake County sheriff's police sergeant who helped lead the investigation recalled the brutality. "This was a premeditated, violent, disturbing type of incident that really shook the Gurnee-Gages Lake-Wildwood community," said Rick Eckenstahler, now chief of operations for the sheriff's office.
After the slayings, Carlson fled to Canada. A week later he turned himself in to police in Quebec City. He eventually pleaded guilty but mentally ill in the killing of his father, avoiding a life sentence. He could be eligible for parole in 2035.
At the sentencing, a psychiatrist who testified for the defense said he believed Carlson had been physically and sexually abused by his parents. The family's religion even became an issue, after some of Carlson's classmates said he had complained that he was not allowed to associate with anyone other than of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Robert Hauser, who represented Carlson, said he advised him not to plead guilty. "I thought we had a very viable insanity defense," Hauser said. "The day of trial, he insisted on accepting the plea, which I didn't think was any deal at all.
"I feel bad for Willie. I think he was abused. I wish him luck."
The abuse allegations still anger Paul Carlson's brother, Craig, who said his nephew called from prison years ago. "He said he was sorry for what he did, and I guess being in a maximum-security prison would make you think you could have spent your life doing something better," said Craig Carlson, who lives in Athens, Wis.
"I told him if he felt bad about it, he should write a letter to the editor and clear his father's name for all the crap that was said about them."
The case made headlines again in June 1993, when Carlson attempted to claim his parents' estate, using a combination of an insanity plea and the fact that he was not convicted of killing his mother. He dropped the claim six months later.
In new court filings, Carlson argues that his sentence goes beyond the bounds permitted by the indictment against him, and he is petitioning to have it voided, which presumably would lead to new trial proceedings.
The type of motion before the court does not qualify him for a public defender, and he is representing himself. Pavletic expects the motion to be dismissed. "He's not entitled to a new trial, and his sentence is not void," Pavletic said. "The indictment was not incorrect at the time, and he was aware of all the possible penalties at the time he made his plea."
Eckenstahler agreed. "We got the right person, and the right person was sentenced accordingly, and the system worked," he said. "I would be strongly opposed to any attempts he might make ... to be released."
Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune