“My earliest memories are of the office and work and the marble floors of the courthouse,” recalls Carla Carlstrom, a senior deputy prosecutor in King County’s special assault unit. “I remember thinking what a cool building it was and running across the long marble hallways when my mom or dad brought me here when they were working.”
Carlstrom’s father, John Keegan, worked in the civil division of the prosecutor’s office. Her mother, Mary Kay Barbieri, served as King County’s first female chief deputy of the criminal division in the ‘80s.
“Once, my mom had to pick up a witness at the airport and there was no other place to take us [Carlstrom and her younger brother], so we went to the hotel with her while she conducted a witness interview,” Carlstrom says.
She was 9 or 10 when she got to sit in on a court case her mother was trying. A legal eaglet from birth, Carlstrom graduated from Seattle University law school in 1997. After stints in district court, drug court, the domestic violence unit, sexual assault unit, trials team and appellate court, Carlstrom was recruited for King County’s newly formed Cold Case Unit in 2006.
Working with detectives across county agencies, Carlstrom has been able to help solve cases sometimes decades old. In 2010, Samuel P. Evans was living in Everett for two years, after serving a prison sentence for a sexual assault conviction.
DNA evidence linked Evans to a 1972 case where Evans broke into an apartment, shot and killed a man, and assaulted and raped the man’s wife. Conclusive evidence meant there was a 1 in 820 quadrillion chance of finding an identical DNA match.
Evans had an extensive criminal history, so that solving this case—Evans’ third-strike offense—subjected him to the possibility of prison for life.
“I love the investigative aspects of these cases,” Carlstrom says. “I love that there are families who have waited for years to find out what really happened, and they can finally have some answers.”
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