After 37 years, husband charged in 1982 Brighton ax murder

Cathleen Krauseneck.jpg
James Krauseneck was arrested this week and charged with the murder of his wife, Cathleen Krauseneck, in 1982. (WHAM file photo)

Brighton, N.Y. (WHAM) - The photographs don't give any indication of the pain that would eventually befall Cathleen Krauseneck and her family.

A smiling bride and groom.

A young mother with her only child.

On Feb. 19, 1982, Cathleen Krauseneck was just 29 when she was found murdered at her home on Del Rio Drive in Brighton.

An ax was embedded in her head. Her daughter, Sara, just three-and-a-half, had spent the day alone with her mother's corpse.

"We didn’t believe it. We were in total shock. How could Jim do this to his own wife and then leave Sara in the house all day? Who would want to believe that?"

Over the years, Annet Schlosser would come to believe that her brother-in-law, James Krauseneck, did, in fact, kill her sister, then go to work at Eastman Kodak Co. before returning home to report the crime.

“I remember dropping to my knees in my dorm room- I just couldn’t believe it," Schlosser said. "She was my favorite sister and best friend.”

The case would haunt former Brighton Police Chief Gene Shaw to his grave.

Over the years, any hopes of an arrest were quickly dashed.

But in 2015, then-Chief Mark Henderson assembled a team to take another look - with help from the FBI.

Former Channel 13 reporter Gary Nurenberg covered the case extensively, even traveling to Michigan where Krauseneck had moved with his daughter after the murder.

"You know, Doug, it haunted all of us who covered it at that time," he said. "I've kept the file in my cabinet for 37 years and pull it out occasionally to refresh my memory."

As to a motive, Cathleen Krauseneck's sister believes James Krauseneck snapped when his wife learned that he had lied to his employer - and to her - about earning his doctorate.

"Knowing my sister, she was all about education and when she found out that Jim did not actually pass his verbal dissertation - he did not earn his PhD - and he lied about it and was calling himself 'Dr. Krauseneck' - when she found out, I am certain she confronted him on it," Schlosser said. "He snapped and I believe that is when he killed her."

James Krauseneck, 67, was arraigned Friday morning after an indictment was unsealed in court, charging him with second-degree murder. His daughter was with him Friday morning as he pleaded not guilty in court.

Monroe County Assistant District Attorney William Gargan is prosecuting the case.

Krauseneck's attorneys asserted his innocence, saying in a statement they have "no doubt" that he will be vindicated.

"Jim has cooperated in the investigation of his wife’s murder, repeatedly giving statements to the police, consenting to the search of his home and his car," a portion of the statement read. "It wasn’t until I became involved and it became evident that he was being targeted, that I placed some reasonable conditions on any further interrogation.
We believe bringing this indictment is a mistake. I have no doubt that we’ll demonstrate this as we defend Jim against this misguided prosecution.

“I want to thank the Brighton Police Department, who has worked with the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office since 1982, for never giving up on finding justice for Cathleen Krauseneck,” said Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley. “We look forward to bringing this case through the criminal justice system and finally bringing justice to Cathleen, her friends and family.”

James Krauseneck has posted bail. Investigators plan to reveal more details about what led to his arrest on Tuesday.