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Man Found Guilty of 1982 Ax Murder of His Wife After the Case Went Unsolved for Nearly 40 Years

People 9/27/2022 KC Baker

WHAM Cathleen and James Krauseneck © Provided by People WHAM Cathleen and James Krauseneck

On a frigid February night in upstate New York four decades ago, James Krauseneck came home from work and found his wife, Cathy Krauseneck, in bed with an ax blade embedded deep in her forehead.

Grabbing the couple's 3-year-old daughter, James ran to get help from a neighbor, who told police he "had a look of terror on his face" and seemed unable to speak. At the time, James was a 30-year-old economist at Eastman Kodak in nearby Rochester.

For years, police in Brighton searched for whoever killed the 29-year-old mom as she slept with her young daughter nearby. Decades passed and the case went cold.

Cathy and James Krauseneck © Provided by People Cathy and James Krauseneck

Now, 40 years after Cathy's brutal murder, her family has answers — and justice.

On Monday, a jury in Monroe County found her husband, now 70, guilty of second-degree murder, Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley announced.

James Krauseneck © Provided by People James Krauseneck

"We did it," Cathy's sister, Annet Schlosser, exclaimed immediately after the verdict, WROC reports. "We did it! Justice for Cathy."

RELATED: 37 Years After His Wife Is Found Dead with an Ax in Her Skull, Husband Is Arrested

Cathy's 95-year-old father, Robert Schlosser, was also grateful that justice had been served for his daughter.

"I wanted to live long enough to (see) it," Schlosser said after the verdict, the Democrat & Chronicle reports. "My wife passed away four years ago. She didn't make it."

Upon hearing this, Annet immediately added, "My mom and Cathy are here."

On February 19, 1982, the day Cathy was murdered, Brighton Police officers arrived at a well-kept, two-story home on Del Rio Drive after James' neighbor, Eileen Marron-Keating, dialed 911 pleading with police to "please come to Del Rio Drive! There's been, I think, a murder,'" WHEC reports.

"Upon entering the house, investigators located the body of Cathleen Krauseneck, who was found deceased in her bed," the district attorney said in her statement. "Reports show that Cathleen was killed from a strike in the head with an ax while she slept."

Since 2015, Doorley and investigators from the Monroe County District Attorney's Office worked with the Brighton Police Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Monroe County Crime Lab, and renowned forsenic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden to further review the case.

"Upon a thorough and detailed investigation" Doorley said in the statement, in November 2019, James was indicted by a grand jury on a second-degree murder charge.

He pleaded not guilty and was free on bail.

"I am proud to be a part of the team who found justice for Cathleen Krauseneck 40 years after James Krauseneck took an ax from his garage and used it to strike her head while she was asleep," Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gallagher said in a statement.

"It has been one of the great pleasures of my career to get to know Cathy's family and to be able to help in securing justice for their loved one," he said.

RELATED: 1982 Ax Murder of N.Y. Mom Went Unsolved for Nearly 40 Years – But Now Her Husband is Charged

"Today's conviction proves that the Monroe County District Attorney's Office and our law enforcement partners will never give up on securing justice for crime victims," Doorley said in the statement.

"Cathleen Krauseneck deserved her day in court," she said.

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"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."

His lawyers have said that prosecutors only had circumstantial evidence tying James to the murder and have grounds for an appeal, the Democrat & Chronicle reports.

"We think the law's on our side and we're confident we're going to have a reversal," defense attorney Michael Wolford said.

In 2019, James' attorney William Easton told PEOPLE he felt the case against his client was weak.

"It's emotional and it's gruesome, but you strip it down … that's why they didn't proceed for 40 years. It wasn't because of lack of trying."

James' lawyers said they believed that Cathy was likely killed by Edward Laraby, a convicted sex offender who confessed before his 2014 death not only to killing Cathy but murdering music teacher Stephanie Kupchynsky in 1991. However, authorities don't believe that he killed Cathy, convinced he was lying about his involvement.

"We feel confident he was not the killer," William Gargan, Chief of the Domestic Violence Bureau in the Monroe County District Attorney's office, said at the time.

Assistant District Attorney Gallagher agreed, saying, "there was no one else that could've done this crime," Gallagher said, WROC reports.

In an email to PEOPLE, James' attorney Michael Wolford said, "We are confident that the conviction will be set aside by the appellate court on the grounds that the prosecution was not justified in waiting 37 years to bring  this indictment. 

"There was no new evidence, simply a new opinion by Dr. Baden."

James is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 7.

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