Man accused of strangling former girlfriend pleads no contest to voluntary manslaughter

Crime Watch

Anthony Wayne Karsten, file image

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — A man accused of strangling his former girlfriend inside her apartment four years ago pleaded no contest Friday to a charge of voluntary manslaughter.

Anthony Wayne Karsten faces 12 years in prison at his Jan. 16 sentencing hearing. A charge of first-degree murder was dismissed under the plea agreement.

Karsten, 44, was arrested last summer in the killing of Jessica Hayes, 23.

Hayes’ family is upset Karsten isn’t facing a life term in prison.

The family issued the following statement: “We are heartbroken over the loss of Jess and we are outraged by the injustice Jess received. She served her country honorably and she deserves better.”

Hayes’ family has told 17 News Karsten was Hayes’ senior petty officer and mentor when they served together in the U.S. Navy in San Diego. They began dating, and she moved to Bakersfield to be with him after they both left the service. 

But Hayes moved out after discovering Karsten was married with two children in San Diego. She began dating someone else.

Family and friends of Hayes said Karsten had threatened to kill her if she left him, according to court documents.

The new boyfriend found Hayes dead in her southwest Bakersfield apartment on June 30, 2015, a belt wrapped around her neck.

Karsten arrived at Hayes’ apartment while investigators were still on scene. He denied being at her apartment earlier, but Hayes had sent a text message to her boyfriend saying Karsten had unexpectedly shown up early that morning.

About a year after the murder, DNA from the belt used to strangle Hayes was identified. The only two DNA profiles located were Hayes’ and Karsten’s.

Within days of the killing, Hayes’ family said, Karsten moved back in with his wife and children in San Diego County.

That’s where Karsten was arrested on suspicion of murder in July 2018.

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