Netflix series features Zeeland arson, murder

Karen Boes
A March 2012 mug shot of Karen Boes. (Michigan Department of Corrections)


ZEELAND, Mich. (WOOD) — A Zeeland woman in prison for life for setting a fire that killed her daughter 15 years ago is hoping a new Netflix series will somehow help lead to her freedom.

The series dubbed “The Confession Tapes” will include the story of Karen Boes, whose daughter, Robin, died in the fire at their Zeeland home on July 30, 2002.

Karen Boes
A 2002 image of Boes’ burned home in Zeeland.

“It’s so hard for me to say whether someone is innocent or guilty. I can only say there was enough reasonable doubt that she shouldn’t have been convicted in the first place,” said Kelly Loudenberg, creator and director of the series, which starts airing Friday.

She said the six cases she highlights in “The Confession Tapes” help show a systemic problem with police interrogations.

“I’m hopeful that people will look at the case and ask some hard questions about the decision that was made, and I’m hoping for another pathway for Karen to get out,” Loudenberg said.

Police said Karen Boes’s hatred for her 14-year-old daughter led her to sprinkle gasoline in the girl’s bedroom and light it.

An Ottawa County jury convicted her of arson and first-degree murder, sending her to prison for life, without parole.

The show’s creator questions the arson science and said she believes Boes’s confession was coerced by a police investigator who knew her.

Karen Boes
A file image shows the damage to the Zeeland home of Karen Boes.

“This case was a case where Karen was interrogated by someone that was a neighbor and a friend,” Loudenberg said.

“There was a lot of telling Karen to act like she was in this dream state; if her conscious mind didn’t do it maybe her unconscious mind did it,” she said.

Loudenberg said Chicago attorney Steven A. Drizin, who was part of the popular Netflix “Making a Murderer” series, recommended the Karen Boes story.

Loudenberg said she met Boes in prison and interviewed her by phone for the 52-minute segment, which she calls “Trial by Fire.”

The jury forewoman in the Boes case told 24 Hour News 8 she hopes to watch the Netflix show, if she can get it at her home in northern Michigan.

The forewoman, Bonnie Ledbetter, said Boes’ confession was only part of what convinced her of her guilt.

More important, she said, was a fire expert’s testimony: “That it was no accident, that the daughter herself could not have set the fire.”

Several months after the verdict, Ledbetter said Boes’ parents confronted her at her job.

“They said you sent an innocent woman to prison,” she recounted.

Karen Boes
Karen Boes appears in a courtroom in 2002.

But Ledbetter told 24 Hour News 8 she’s still convinced the jury got it right.

Boes already has lost an appeal that was based in part on her confession.

The series will begin airing on Netflix at 3 a.m. Friday.

Karen Boes’ son, who was in court during the trial, told 24 Hour News 8 he plans to watch the show, but he declined further comment.