Skip to main content

‘Brighton Ax Murder’ Case that Inspired Horror Film Reaches Dramatic Conclusion: Judge Admonishes Condemned Man While Daughter Professes Father’s Innocence


James Krauseneck is sentenced on second-degree murder charges

The controversial “Brighton Ax Murder” case out of upstate New York reached a dramatic conclusion in court on Monday as the convicted killer was sentenced to spend 25 years to life in prison.

James Krauseneck, Jr., 70, proclaimed his innocence after the sentence was handed down by the judge in Monroe County.

The defendant’s daughter, Sara Krauseneck Young, similarly mourned the turn of events, telling the court that she lost both of her parents and that her father was “convicted of a crime he did not commit,” according to Rochester-based journalist Jackie Napier, in a courtroom report for local ABC/Fox affiliate WHAM.

In September of this year, Krauseneck was convicted on one count of murder in the second degree over the 1982 slaying of his then-wife, 29-year-old Cathleen Krauseneck, whose life was extinguished, in one fell swoop, by the blade of an ax to her head as she slept.

The gruesome slaying, long a cold case, indirectly inspired a Netflix horror film – which was based on a novel by Elizabeth Brundage.

Krauseneck, a former Lynchburg College economics professor, was charged by the Brighton Police Department with his wife’s murder in November 2019, over 37 years after her death. He entered a not guilty plea and was free on bond until his conviction.

“No other physical evidence at the scene, including DNA, points to anyone except James Krauseneck, Jr.,” BPD Chief David Catholdi said when Krauseneck was arrested. “What we did not find was any evidence that points to anyone else that was in that home.”

Pre-trial motions and hearings were left unsettled as of December 2021, with Judge Charles Schiano Jr. allowing the testimony of dead witnesses to be used during trial, against the defense’s wishes – but the trial date was set for late August of this year.

“Cathleen Krauseneck deserved her day in court,” Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley said after the defendant was convicted following a several-week-long trial. “After February 19, 1982, James Krauseneck moved away and went on with his life for 40 years. Cathleen did not have that privilege. I am grateful that we were able to provide this closure for Cathleen and her family.”

But the closure achieved was not unanimously welcomed.

While the deceased woman’s daughter – who was 3 years old at the time of the incident and sat in the house for hours with her mother’s dead body on the day in question – assailed the alleged miscarriage of justices, Catherine Krauseneck’s father praised the verdict and had choice words for his son-in-law.

“Jim, I hope you live to 100 years old — and enjoy your new home,” Robert Schlosser reportedly said.

Young criticized local law enforcement, saying she was “appalled” by their “aggressive” tactics, and calling the case against her father an “agenda driven and politically motivated prosecution.”

The condemned man also addressed the weight of the dire circumstances that his daughter faced for most of her of life.

“Every day my heart aches when I think about Sara in that house – all day and alone,” Krauseneck said, while insisting he was “devastated” after losing his “best friend.” He added: “Cathy is looking down from heaven today and is very proud of her daughter.”

The judge, in sentencing the defendant to the state-allowed maximum, reportedly said the outcome in the case was entirely appropriate and that he “lost no sleep over this verdict.”

Referring the photographs of the victim presented by prosecutors, Schiano said the killing was “heinous, brutal, and unimaginable.”

[Image via screengrab/WROC]

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime: