What happened to Marie Carlson: NBC Dateline to revisit Fort Walton

Keith Morrison will discuss the inexplicable 2011 disappearance of a mother of two in this Friday’s NBC Dateline program. She is said to have abandoned her three-month-old daughter in the care of a pastor and his wife before disappearing.

Marie Carlson vanished from her Fort Walton Beach, Florida, home in October 2011, when she was last seen. Her family had serious concerns about the circumstances surrounding her disappearance.

On July 22, 2022, NBC Dateline will air an episode titled Secrets on the Emerald Coast that will go deeper into the unsolved 2011 case. It will describe how a television program called Cold Justice, created by Law & Order founder Dick Wolf, assisted in the case’s resolution.


Marie Carlson

NBC Dateline: Who was Marie Carlson?

Marie Jane Carlson, who was born in 1974 and was originally from the Philippines, was remembered by her loved ones as having a spirit of adventure. She adored to cook and sing along at karaoke nights. She also cherished her work in the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, it took far too long for justice to be served in her own instance.

Marie, a mother of two, was 37 years old when she vanished. Her first child was born when she was still married to Jeff Carlson. She also shared a newborn daughter with James Flanders, a preacher with whom she had a polygamous relationship that also involved Tanya, Tanya’s husband.

Flanders last saw Marie on October 17, 2011. Her family got a mysterious message two days later about her going to pursue her lifelong dream.

Marie’s family was troubled and suspicious, and Jeff eventually reported her missing on October 24, 2011.

NBC Dateline: What happened to Marie Carlson?

Marie’s automobile was found at the nearby airport after she went missing, but investigators said she never left the area.

James Flanders was initially implicated in the case, but no solid evidence was discovered to advance the inquiry.

Flanders claimed to have left the house on the day of the disappearance between 6 and 7 in the evening while his wife Tanya was out with the baby, but there was no dead body to be found. He asserted that when the pair came back, Marie had left with her car.

However, something was wrong since Marie would never have abandoned her infant daughter behind. She had not withdrawn any money from her bank account, and her possessions were still at home.

The goal of the television program Cold Justice in 2015 was to collaborate with law enforcement to reexamine cold cases. When the producers learned that there had been no confirmed sightings of Marie Carlson after October 17, 2011, but also no concrete evidence that she had died, they became curious about her absence. Additionally, a $10,000 prize as well as an FBI missing persons alert had been ineffective.

Reluctant parishioners were coaxed out of their homes by the arrival of the film crew. They disclosed that Marie and Flanders’ relationship had been tense and that they had argued the day she vanished.

Authorities finally caught up with Flanders after tracing his activities on the day of Marie’s disappearance and looking through his old mobile phone records.

Flanders was apprehended at his residence in Arizona, where he had relocated three months after Marie vanished. When he arrived in Florida after being extradited, he referred to Marie as his “sister wife.”

In exchange for a lighter sentence, Flanders admitted that he put Marie “in a choke hold” before killing her in April 2016. Additionally, he revealed to the authorities the location of her grave.

The maximum sentence for voluntary manslaughter was 15 years in prison, which was what Okaloosa County Circuit Judge William Stone gave him.

On July 22, 2022, Secrets on the Emerald Coast will air on NBC at 10/9c.

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