Former Gig Harbor man convicted in New York of murdering wife with ax 40 years ago

A former Weyerhaeuser executive who lived in Gig Harbor as recently as 2016 was convicted last week of murder for killing his wife with an ax in New York 40 years ago.

James Krauseneck Jr., 70, was found guilty in a jury trial in Rochester, New York, of second-degree murder for the Feb. 19, 1982 killing of Cathleen Krauseneck, according to the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office.

The woman’s murder at her Brighton, New York home was a cold case for decades, but according to local reports and previous coverage by The News Tribune, detectives were suspicious of Krauseneck early in the investigation. Cathleen was 29 at the time, and the couple had been married about eight years. Krauseneck claimed he returned home from work that evening and found his wife dead in their bed.

Krauseneck was indicted in 2019 after an FBI analysis of evidence found only his DNA in the home.

“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 news release.

Krauseneck is to be sentenced Nov. 7.

James Krauseneck Jr.
James Krauseneck Jr.

Evidence in the defendant’s trial was entirely circumstantial, according to the Democrat & Chronicle. Prosecutors reportedly argued there was no other possible suspect and no evidence that anyone else had committed the crime. Police found signs of a break-in at the couple’s home, but detectives decided the scene was staged. The Krauseneck’s then 3-year-old daughter was safe in her room, and nothing of value had been taken.

Before Cathleen Krauseneck was killed, her husband was accused at work of lying about receiving a doctorate degree, and Cathleen confronted him about it. During Krauseneck’s trial, prosecutors reportedly portrayed this as an issue that could have sowed discord.

After the murder, Krauseneck moved with his daughter to Michigan, where he was originally from. Investigators went there to speak with him and continued to follow up on leads, according to The News Tribune, but the case fizzled.

At some point, Krauseneck moved to Gig Harbor and became vice president of sales for Weyerhaeuser, a wood product company and one of the largest owners of timberlands in the world. Detectives visited him in Pierce County in 2016, and shortly after he and his fourth wife listed their 2,252-square-foot house near Canterwood Golf & Country Club for sale.