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Man to Stand Trial in New York for Murder of Wife Who ‘Died From a Single Blow to the Head From an Ax’ in 1982

James Krauseneck Jr.

James Krauseneck Jr.

A judge in New York refused to dismiss the murder charge against a man accused of killing his wife who “died from a single blow to the head from an ax” nearly 40 years ago.

State Supreme Court Justice Charles Schiano Jr. on Thursday set Aug. 29, 2022 as the trial date for James Krauseneck, Jr., 69, who was charged with murdering his wife, Cathleen Krauseneck, while she was in bed inside their Rochester family home on Feb. 19, 1982, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.

According to the report, Judge Schiano on Thursday also denied a request from Krauseneck for a Frye hearing, finding that it would be unnecessary. A Frye hearing is a proceeding to determine whether the method of evidence gathering in a case is accepted by experts in the relevant field. Judge Schiano reportedly reasoned that the method used to construct a recent timeline estimating Cathleen’s likely time of death “has been accepted science and is not novel.” The recent timeline reportedly places James in the house at or near it the time of his wife’s murder.

The gruesome slaying was the inspiration of a Netflix horror film.

Krauseneck home

Krauseneck home, Image via WROC screengrab

Despite a number of pretrial issues that still need to be dealt with, Schiano reportedly said he wanted to get the proceedings underway as quickly as possible; because the trial is expected to go on for over a month, the latter half of 2022 was the nearest opening that worked for both parties and the court. One of Schiano’s reasons for wanting to move at a rapid pace is the fact that several witnesses have already died and the victim’s father is 94 years old and has to travel from Michigan to watch the trial.

Cathleen was 29 years old at the time of her death.

Prosecutors have reportedly contended that the deceased witnesses already provided testimony that is in the evidentiary record and can still be introduced at trial. Defense attorneys have reportedly claimed the deceased witnesses would have been able to provide testimony that showed James was innocent.

Judge Schiano ruled that the evidentiary testimony from the deceased witnesses will be admissible and not harm Krauseneck’s defense. He reportedly reasoned that such testimony may even help his case, saying that the now-dead witnesses for the defense can’t be broken down by prosecutors on cross-examination.

Cathleen Krauseneck

Cathleen Krauseneck, Image via WHAM screengrab

The former Lynchburg College economics professor was arrested by officers with the Brighton Police Department and charged with Cathleen’s murder in November 2019, 37 years after her death. He entered a plea of not guilty and was released after posting $100,000 bond.

According to the Democrat and Chronicle, James and Cathleen had moved into the house approximately six months before the defendant said he came home and found her dead in their bed. A 1982 article from the paper said her attacker “drove an ax into her head while she slept.” After coming across her body, James allegedly took his 3-year-old daughter across the street and called the police.

He has steadfastly maintained that Cathleen was alive when he left for work in the morning and that he didn’t see his wife again until he found her body.

Brighton Police Chief David Catholdi reportedly said that after “thousands” of hours of investigation, detectives found no evidence that anybody else had been in the home other than James and the couple’s daughter.

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

“There’s no bogey man out there. There was no outside party in the house during the commission of that crime,” he added.

[image via Brighton Police]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.