James Krauseneck Jr., the 71-year-old New York man convicted of killing his wife with a single blow to the head from an ax more than 40 years ago, has died in prison while appealing his conviction.
Krauseneck’s death comes just a few months after a Monroe County jury in September 2022 found him guilty on one count of second-degree murder in the 1982 slaying of 29-year-old Cathleen Krauseneck.
However, because Krauseneck had already begun appealing his conviction and will not be able to see the appeal process through, his indictment and conviction for the murder of Cathleen Krauseneck will be vacated under state law, a common legal principle known as “abatement ab initio.”
Michael Wolford, Krauseneck’s defense attorney, reportedly confirmed to Rochester ABC affiliate WHAM-TV that Krauseneck was diagnosed with esophageal cancer while in prison, which led to drastic weight loss and ultimately caused his death.
“I was convinced he was innocent back on March 1, 1982, a few days after that murder, when I first met Jim and discussed this case with him, so my opinion hasn’t changed one iota, and I feel very bad it has ended in this fashion,” Wolford reportedly told the station.
Wolford also told WHAM he believed Krauseneck’s conviction would have been overturned on appeal.
“I am sure the appellate division would have vacated the conviction for a number of reasons, not the least of which is, there was no justification to wait 37 years to bring an indictment,” Wolford reportedly said.
Wolford did not immediately respond to a message from Law&Crime seeking additional comment on his client’s death.
The victim’s sister reportedly felt that Krauseneck got what he deserved.
“Even though Jim did not serve his full sentence, we believe that karma was done when he died an undignified death behind prison walls,” Annet Schlosser, sister of Cathleen Krauseneck, reportedly told the Democrat & Chronicle. “The entire world knows that he killed my sister, and he died knowing that.”
Krauseneck, a former Lynchburg College economics professor, was arrested in 2019 and charged with murder nearly 37 years after his wife’s death. At the time, Brighton Police Chief David Catholdi said that after thousands of hours of investigation, detectives found no evidence that anybody else had been in the home at the time of Cathleen’s death other than the defendant and their young daughter.
“No other physical evidence at the scene, including DNA, points to anyone except James Krauseneck, Jr.,” Catholdi said when Krauseneck was arrested. “What we did not find was any evidence that points to anyone else that was in that home.”
Officers with the Brighton Police Department responded to a 911 call on Feb. 19, 1982, at a home on Del Rio Drive, the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office said in a press release following Krauseneck’s arrest. Inside, police found Cathleen’s lifeless body in the bed she shared with her husband.
“Cathleen was killed from a strike in the head with an ax while she slept,” the release states.
The couple had reportedly moved into the home about six months at the time of Cathleen’s death. They reportedly fought over Cathleen’s recent discovery that Krauseneck had not finished his doctorate as he had represented when he worked at Kodak.
Krauseneck maintained that she was alive when he left for work that morning, and he discovered her body when he returned from work.
The slaying became known as “the Brighton Ax Murder” and inspired a 2021 Netflix horror film.
Following his conviction for his wife’s murder, Judge Charles Schiano Jr. assailed Krauseneck during his sentencing hearing, saying the outcome in the case was appropriate and that he had “lost no sleep” over the guilty verdict.
Referring to the photographs of the victim presented by prosecutors, Schiano said the killing was “heinous, brutal, and unimaginable.”
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James Krauseneck dies in prison, conviction to be vacated
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