Brighton, NY

The Brighton Ax Murder - 40 Year Old Murder Case Goes to rial

A.W. Naves
James Krauseneck(Photo: Brighton Police Department)

The trial of former economist James Krauseneck began this week. Krauseneck stands accused of murdering his wife, 29-year-old Cathleen “Cathy” Krauseneck, with an ax in the early morning hours of February 19, 1982. After allegedly killing his wife, he went to work, leaving their 3-year-old daughter home alone with her mother’s corpse at their home in Brighton, New York.

Jury selection began on Monday. The trial is expected to last about a month.

According to Krauseneck, he left for his job at Eastman Kodak at around 6:30 a.m. that morning and spent the entire day at work. He found Cathy in their bedroom when he returned home at around 5 p.m. He said he rushed inside the house after finding the garage door uncharacteristically left open. He claimed that he then found his wife in bed. She still had the long-handled ax used to kill her lodged in her skull.

Investigators believe that she died instantly from the initial blow and that she was asleep when she was attacked.

The 3-year-old daughter of the couple, Sara Krauseneck, was in the house in a separate bedroom and was unharmed. Krauseneck said he grabbed his daughter and got out of the house, running to a neighbor’s house to call for help. Young Sara was unable to identify her mother’s attacker, allegedly telling police only that she saw “a bad man.” Other than her initial remarks, her father refused to let the police speak with her again for months.

Sara has been banned from the courtroom by Supreme Court Justice Charles Schiano as she may be required to testify for the defense. She has always stood by her father against allegations that he killed her mother.

Krauseneck has always denied any involvement in his wife’s death. Still, he was indicted in 2019 on charges of second-degree murder. There is no forensic evidence that anyone else was in the home that may have committed the heinous crime. After years of chasing down other leads, investigators decided that Krauseneck was their only suspect and followed through with an arrest, despite the 37-year delay.

Though Krauseneck was extradited from Arizona to New York at the time of his arrest, his trial was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He has been out on a $10,000 bond awaiting trial.

Prosecutors in the case claim that then 30-year-old Krauseneck murdered Cathy before he left for work and staged the scene to look like a burglary gone wrong. A window was broken, but there were valuables, including cash, left in plain sight that weren’t taken. The ax handle and other surfaces were wiped clean of any fingerprints.

The prosecution contends that Krauseneck killed his wife of eight years after she caught him lying about his level of education. He had told both her and his employers that he had earned his doctorate, which Cathy learned was untrue. Witnesses reported the couple arguing a great deal in the weeks leading up to her death.

In 2021, Krauseneck’s attorneys attempted to have the murder case against their client tossed out because many witnesses and investigators involved in the case were deceased. Judge Schiano dismissed their request, pointing out that a lack of witnesses was to the benefit of the accused.

Krauseneck’s defense also claimed that convicted killer and sex offender Ed Laraby lived near the couple’s home at the time Cathy was killed and that he confessed to her murder in prison. However, he gave details that weren’t consistent with the evidence and was a known serial confessor who attempted to bolster his notoriety with false confessions. Some of the people he claimed to have murdered were, in fact, still alive. However, the judge has agreed to allow his statements to be entered into the record at trial despite his death in 2014.

Defense attorneys in the case have also attempted to have the forensics used by police further scrutinized and verified during a Frye hearing, but Judge Schiano denied their request.

Krauseneck’s lawyers claim that the case against their client is weak and they feel confident that he will be found innocent of the charges against him. The weeks ahead will likely reveal many more details about this case and whether prosecutors can make the case against Krauseneck stick.

Comments / 3

Published by

Freelance Writer. Author. Alabamian. I write about true crimes, unsolved cases, and macabre mysteries.

Alabama State

More from A.W. Naves

Comments / 0