James Krauseneck Jr. is former economics professor and sales executive from Arizona, Washington State and New York, who is accused of murdering his wife, Cathleen, with a single blow to the head from an ax in the couple’s Rochester, New York area colonial home.
Cathleen Krauseneck died on February 19, 1982 inside the family’s home. In November 2019, authorities with the Brighton Police Department announced that Krauseneck has been charged with second-degree murder for his wife’s death some 37 years ago.
The arrest was a joint effort that included the local PD, funding from the Town Board, and the help of a famous pathologist and the FBI’s cold case unit. “This is one of the worst outcomes of domestic violence this agency has investigated, and this was domestic violence,” said Brighton Police Chief David Catholdi in a news conference.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Cathleen Krauseneck, Whose Husband Worked as an Economist for Kodak at the Time, Died From ‘a Single Blow to Her Head’
In a news conference announcing the arrest, the Brighton Police Chief and other officials provided some details of grisly murder.
Around 5 p.m., Brighton police responded to a 911 call from a neighbor of the defendant, James Krauseneck Jr., Catholdi said in the news conference.
He said authorities were led to the home of James, his wife Cathleen and their daughter, Sara. There, they found Cathleen dead from a “single blow to her head from an ax.”
A lengthy investigation over the past few decades took authorities to Michigan, Colorado, Virginia, Washington and Texas. “Hundreds if not thousands of investigative hours went into case,” Catholdi said. He said a now retired police chief asked for a second look at the case four years ago.
At the time of the murder, James worked as an economist at Eastman Kodak Co., according to The Democrat and Chronicle, which reported that the husband said he came home and “found her dead in the couple’s bed.”
A 1982 story in The Democrat and Chronicle described the couple’s home as a “two-story colonial house.” The couple had only lived there for six months. The home was located in Brighton, described by The Tampa Tribune as a “wealthy Rochester suburb.”
In a 1982 article, that newspaper stated that the attacker “drove an ax into her head while she slept.”
It said that Cathleen’s “extremely distraught” husband had discovered “his nightgown-clad wife dead in bed with an ax with a 2 ½ foot handle embedded in her head when he returned home from work about 5 p.m.”
James took his daughter across the street to neighbors and called police. Authorities said in that article that they didn’t think “the child recognizes what happened” and wasn’t able to provide information.
In a 1982 article in the Democrat and Chronicle, police said were indications of a burglary, but no signs that anything was missing. There was a silver tea service and tray found on the floor and a rear door window was broken. No footprints was found outside the rear door, but there was no snow outside.
A 1982 article in the Times Herald of Michigan stated that Cathleen died in an upstairs bedroom of the two-story house. On the night before the murder, the Krausenecks shopped at a discount drug store and made a bank deposit, returning home at 8 p.m., the newspaper reported.
James’ attorneys released a statement attesting to his innocence.
They say that the couple’s daughter also believes her father did not do it.
2. James & Cathleen Were High School Sweethearts in Michigan & He Worked as a Professor
James and Cathleen Krauseneck grew up in Michigan and were high school sweethearts at Mount Clemens High School, according to a 1982 Times Herald story, which added that they had lived in Virginia for two years.
Cathy appears in their high school yearbook one year behind James. Her maiden name was Cathleen Schlosser.
They had “limited friends” in Rochester because they had only recently moved there.
The newspaper reported that they both graduated from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. Cathleen had a BS degree in occupational therapy and James a BS and MA in economics.
James stopped just short of getting his PHD in Colorado but hadn’t finished a dissertation in 1982. In 1979, he was an assistant professor of economics at Lynchburg College, according to the Times Herald.
The ax was from the family garage and had no fingerprints on it, according to the Times Herald.
Some cases are cracked by DNA evidence, especially cold cases. In this case, says Catholdi, it’s the lack of DNA that’s important. Because Krauseneck lived in the family home, his DNA would obviously be at the scene, so that doesn’t tell investigators anything.
However, it’s the lack of DNA, fingerprints, or any sign of another killer that authorities believe helps point the finger at Krauseneck now.
“People want a singular piece of evidence that can directly point to” Krauseneck, Catholdi said. “This is not one of those cases. You have to look at the totality of circumstances.”
He stressed: “No other physical evidence at the scene, including DNA, points to anyone except James Krauseneck, Jr.” The chief said that “what we did not find was any evidence that points to anyone else that was in that home,” and he said that “speaks volumes,” adding, “There’s no bogey man out there. There was no outside party in the house during the commission of that crime.”
Authorities said that Krauseneck’s attorney said he was cooperative, but authorities said they “disagree with his definition of cooperation in that context.”
3. A Famed Pathologist’s Timeline Is Crucial in the Case, Authorities Believe & Krauseneck’s New Wife & Daughter Were in Court
Although she “spent a day with the body” as a youngster, Krauseneck’s daughter, Sara, and his current wife, Sharon, “traveled with him to court,” according to The Democrat and Chronicle, which added that, after the homicide, Krauseneck raised his daughter in Michigan, where he met Cathleen. The Associated Press reported that he wouldn’t let authorities interview the girl at times.
According to the AP, Krauseneck has been married four times. Ancestry records show one of his divorces was in 1997 (they married in 1992). He’s been married to the former Sharon Marie James since 1999, a marriage that occurred in Clark County, Nevada. Sharon and Jim Krauseneck are donors to Arizona Ballet.
Catholdi said in the press conference that authorities had consulted with famed pathologist Dr. Michael Baden, the former chief medical examiner for The City of New York.
“We believe in examining the timeline of events, speaking with witnesses and James’ timeline he provided along with all of the other evidence will establish James was home at time of murder,” the chief said.
The chief said that Baden “confirmed the timeline that will show and prove that Mr. Krauseneck was in the home at the time of the homicide.” Authorities did not provide additional details, such as times. However, The Democrat and Chronicle reported that Krauseneck claimed his wife was alive when he left the home at 6:30 a.m that day.
4. Krauseneck, Who Moved to Arizona Recently, Was Married to Cathleen for Eight Years
The police chief said that Krauseneck had surrendered and was released on $100,000 bail after surrendering his passport. He’s 67 years old and lives in Peoria, Arizona.
Authorities called members of Cathleen’s family to tell them an arrest was made. At the time of the murder, Cathleen was 29 years old and James was 30. They had been married since 1974, for eight years. They shared a daughter who was only 3 and a half years old at the time and was in the home when her mother was brutally murdered.
Catholdi urged people not to forget the victim. “Police across this region will never forget our victims. We know we are the only ones able to speak for victims,” he said.
5. Krauseneck Has Also Worked as a Sales Executive in the Washington Area
Krauseneck has held various occupations over the years. According to the AP, he lived for a time in the area of Puget Sound and was a sales executive with a “timber, land and forest products company” called Weyerhaeuser. King5 described him as a “former high-ranking executive” there.
“For the last 37 years, Jim has continued to contribute to society,” his lawyer’s statement reads. “At the time of his wife’s murder, Jim was an economist at Kodak Company and then afterward, had a successful career and retired as vice-president of a Fortune 500 company.”
The couple’s daughter has “never doubted her father’s innocence,” the statement says. It insists that “Jim’s innocence was clear 37 years ago; it’s clear today. At the end of the case, I have no doubt Jim will be vindicated.”
Retired Chief of Police Mark Henderson started with Brighton PD in 1986. He said the crime had a “significant impact” on the community and Police Department.
“I know the inability to bring this case forward weighed heavily,” he said, adding that “it was never closed.”
The FBI had formed a cold case working group in the area, so they decided to start from ground zero with everything they had and work closely with the FBI, he said.
In 1982, there were no computers. Files weren’t digitized. One of the first things the FBI did was convert handwritten paper to digital searchable files.
The Town Board provided necessary resources. When police first told Cathleen’s family that they were taking a fresh look at the case, her mother was still alive at the time. That was in 2015.
Jeremy Bell, FBI special agent in charge in the area, said in the news conference that the FBI’s investigations “are primarily about victims. Never is that more true than in these cold cases.”
Krauseneck has a trial date in June.