Business executive arrested in wife’s cold-case axe murder 37 years later

BRIGHTON, N.Y. – A lack of DNA evidence has led police in New York to arrest a retired business executive in his wife’s cold-case murder — 37 years after she was found with an axe lodged in her skull, according to a report.

James Krausneck, 67, was charged Nov. 8 with second-degree murder in the gruesome Feb. 19, 1982 death of his wife, 29-year-old Cathleen Krauseneck in Brighton, a small town near Rochester, according to reports.

The medical examiner said she died from a single blow to the head. Police say an expert has taken a fresh look at the time of death and the overall timeline provided by the husband.

“I believe the timeline will put Jim Krauseneck in the house during the commission of the crime,” said Brighton Police Chief David Catholdi.

Catholdi said there was no singular piece of evidence that led to a break in the case and the arrest of Krauseneck.

“You have to look at the totality of the circumstances, along with all the evidence and the timeline of events,” Catholdi said.

Nobody else’s DNA was found in the house after the murder, Catholdi said Tuesday in explaining what led to Krauseneck’s arrest, WHAM reported.

business executive

Retired business executive James Krauseneck, 67, was charged with murder in the gruesome killing of his wife back in 1982. (Brighton Police Department)

Investigators traveled to Michigan, Colorado, Virginia, Washington, and Texas to expand their efforts to make an arrest in this case. In 2015, it received a fresh look with the help of the FBI’s special cold case unit.

“DNA, fingerprints — or the lack thereof — can speak volumes,” he said. “You would expect DNA evidence to be in that home. He lived there. What we did not find was any DNA that belonged to anybody else that was in that home. I think that speaks volumes.”

Catholdi added, “To my knowledge, there has been no DNA evidence recovered from the home or on any piece of evidence that belongs to anybody else, so there is no boogeyman out there.”

The station interviewed Bill Easton, an attorney for Krauseneck, who said, “I’ll wait to see the reports, but I’m somewhat skeptical there’s not a strand of DNA from anyone else in the house.”

Krauseneck worked for two large companies, Eastman Kodak in New York and Weyerhauser in Washington State, according to reports. He was arrested at his retirement home in Arizona.

The murder troubled detectives who were suspicious of Krauseneck for years, The News Tribune reported. Cathleen Krauseneck was the first of his four wives, the paper reported.

When Krauseneck appeared in court, his daughter Sara was with him, the Tribune added. She was 3 when the murder took place. He was released on $100,000 bail.

The paper quoted another Krauseneck attorney as telling a reporter his client’s innocence was clear 37 years ago.

“It’s clear today,” Michael Wolford said. “I have no doubt Jim will be vindicated.”

New York Times dispatch two days after the murder reported that Krausneck found his wife’s body after being at work all day. He then was said to have found Sara in her bedroom.

The murder weapon, an axe with a two-and-half-foot handle, had been taken from the family garage, the paper reported.

It had been wiped clean of fingerprints, the News Tribune reported.


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