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Man who murdered his father and estranged wife sentenced to 75 years to life

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A Santa Rosa man was sentenced in Sonoma County Superior Court Wednesday morning to 75 years to life in prison for the first-degree murders of his estranged wife and his father two years ago.

Dalton James Carlson’s sentence also includes 25 years to life for use of a firearm.

Carlson, 34, killed his father Dale Robert Carlson, 57, in his father’s residence on Valley Center Drive and his estranged wife Jessica Noel Carlson, 37, at her residence on Glenbrook Avenue on Feb. 25, 2017.

Jessica Carlson’s body was found by her 15-year-old daughter and Dalton Carlson’s mother after they had not heard from her since the previous day, prosecutors said.

Jessica Carlson died of a gunshot wound to her head and neck from a .45-caliber handgun, according to testimony at the preliminary hearing in the case.

Dale Carlson’s body was found by friends in the kitchen of his home. He was struck at least 11 times with a large flashlight and died of blunt force trauma to his head, according to the district attorney’s office. Dalton Carlson cried as letters from Jessica’s mother Annette Neal and Jessica’s son Skylar Keller were read in court.

Keller wrote:

“I lost two parents. … Why would someone destroy something so beautiful?”

Neal called the murders:

“… a thoughtless, cruel act that impacted everyone in our lives.”

As he held up a photo of his brother, Dale Carlson’s brother Scot told the defendant the family does not understand why the murders happened:

“What would drive someone to kill a man like this. … I’m never going to have closure. You caused a lot of pain. I just don’t know why this happened.”

Deputy District Attorney Barbara Nanney told the court the crimes were brutal acts:

“No one knows why except Dalton.”

She said Carlson’s abuse of methamphetamine was no excuse:

“When he was arrested on the roof of Jessica’s home, he knew she was in the house dead and he let her lie there.”

Carlson was facing a misdemeanor charge of battery of his estranged wife and a charge of damaging a communications device at the time of the slayings. He was arrested the day before the murders for being under the influence of a drug outside his wife’s house and violating a peaceful contact restraining order.

Police officers went to Jessica Carlson’s home to investigate a possible burglary and found Dalton Carlson walking on the roof. Both of the victims’ blood was found on Carlson’s overalls when he was arrested, prosecutors said.

Carlson’s attorney Jeff Mitchell said testimony at a preliminary hearing indicated Carlson had a “mental break” and he was found in a “psychotic state” with a hammer on the roof of Jessica’s home. Carlson’s mental competence was an issue in court since the slayings, but a trial had been scheduled in February when he pleaded no contest to the murders.

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