Nearly four decades after a mother was found dead in her bedroom with an ax lodged in her skull, her husband is on trial for her murder.
James and Cathy Krauseneck, aged 30 and 29, respectively, had been married for eight years. James worked as an economist for Kodak, and they cared for a 3-year-old daughter in the suburbs of Brighton, N.Y., according to PEOPLE. But their picture-perfect marriage came to a horrific end on Feb. 19, 1982.
James maintains that he left for work that morning around 6:30 a.m. – and came home to a blood-chilling crime scene. Cathy was lying in bed, dead — her skull hacked open with a single ax blow. Their 3-year-old, Sara, had apparently been home all day with the body, local newspaper the Democrat & Chronicle reports.
Over the next 37 years, investigators on the case met with dead end after dead end, Brighton police chief David Catholdi said in a November 2019 press conference. Devoting “hundreds, if not thousands” of hours to the investigation, law enforcement tracked leads across at least five states – always coming back empty-handed, he said.
In 2015, the police chief at the time ordered a review of the case, this time involving the FBI. Investigators checked for DNA on all collected evidence, but again found no trace of anyone who wasn’t already living in the house, Catholdi said.
Increasingly, the signs pointed to only one suspect: James Krauseneck himself.
“We believe in examining the timeline of events, speaking with witnesses,” Catholdi said. “And James’ timeline that he provided, along with all other evidence, will establish that James Krauseneck Jr. was home at the time of the murder.”
Catholdi did not elaborate on the prosecution’s proposed timeline for the killing, but stressed the lack of evidence for any other suspects.
Krauseneck, now 69, was arrested in November 2019 on charges of second-degree murder. He bonded out on $100,000 bail and has been in and out of court for more than a year.
“It’s a weak case,” his defense attorney, William Easton, told PEOPLE. “It’s emotional and it’s gruesome, but you strip it down … that’s why they didn’t proceed for 40 years. It wasn’t because of lack of trying.”
Krauseneck’s daughter, who was in the house with her dead mother, traveled to support her father at trial in 2019, the Democrat & Chronicle reports.
“She has never doubted her father’s innocence,” Krauseneck’s lawyers said in a statement posted online by a reporter at the paper.
Krauseneck had refused to let investigators speak with his daughter in the months following the murder, according to the Associated Press.
Krauseneck is due back in court for a pretrial hearing on Feb. 23, PEOPLE reports.
He currently resides in Arizona after working as a sales executive at a forestry company, according to AP.
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