Husband Sentenced For Wife's 'Heinous, Brutal, And Unimaginable' Ax Murder In 1982

The man convicted of killing his wife with an ax as she slept will likely spend the rest of his life in a New York prison.

James Krausenenck, 70, was sentenced Monday to the maximum of 25 years to life in prison for the 1982 murder of his wife, Cathleen “Cathy” Krauseneck, 29, according to the Democrat & Chronicle. However, while Krauseneck’s fate marks the end of a four-decade-old tragedy for Cathy’s family, some – namely the defendant’s daughter, Sara Krauseneck – believe that Krauseneck was wrongfully convicted.

“The justice system has failed my parents, myself, and both sides of my family,” Sara stated, according to ABC Rochester affiliate WHAM-TV. “It has also failed this community.”

James Krauseneck proclaimed his innocence at Monday’s hearing, as he has since his 2019 arrest in Arizona, according to the Democrat & Chronicle.

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“To this day, it’s still very difficult for me to talk about the circumstances regarding her death,” Krauseneck stated. “I miss Cathy so much.”

Krauseneck said he remains “haunted by why someone would murder such a beautiful person,” WHAM-TV reported.

In a statement e-mailed to Oxygen.com, Monroe County District Attorney Sandra Doorley thanked the 12 jurors, adding their office would “never give up on victims.”

“I am thankful that Cathleen’s family feels justice in today’s resolutions,” Doorley stated. “Forty years later, her family can finally move on from this nightmare and continue their grief knowing that James Krauseneck will spend the rest of his days incarcerated.”

James Krauseneck Pd
James Krauseneck Pd

James Krauseneck Photo: Brighton Police Department

On Feb. 19, 1982, Krauseneck returned to his Brighton, New York, home – just outside Rochester – from his job to find his wife of eight years dead in their bed, at least according to the defendant’s account. Cathy was believed to be sleeping when she sustained a single blow from a long-handled ax, which was still lodged in her skull when discovered.

Prosecutors, however, argued Krauseneck murdered his wife in cold blood either the night before or the same morning before leaving for work (depending on varying timelines provided in expert witness testimony).

The defense and the state agreed that the couple’s then-3-year-old daughter, Sara, was with her mother’s body for the duration of the day. At the time, she told police she saw a “bad man” on the morning of her mother’s murder.

In September, a Monroe County jury found Krauseneck guilty on charges of second-degree murder.

“I lost no sleep over the verdict,” said State Supreme Court Justice Charles Schiano at Monday’s hearing.

Johnia Berry featured in Sleeping with Death
Johnia Berry featured in Sleeping with Death

Schiano referred to the 1982 murder as “heinous, brutal, and unimaginable,” according to WHAM-TV.

Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gallagher commended the work of several people from the DA’s Office and local police in Brighton, as stated in the release sent to Oxygen.com.

“James Krauseneck took an ax from his garage and used it to strike Cathy Krauseneck’s head while she was asleep, and now 40 years later, he will finally serve the life sentence that he deserves,” said Gallagher. “While nothing can give Cathy back the past 40 years, Mr. Krauseneck will spend the rest of his life in the New York State Department of Corrections.”

Cathy’s family, including her 95-year-old father, Robert Schlosser, was also satisfied with Schiano’s decision, per the Democrat & Chronicle.

“Jim, I hope you live for 100 years and enjoy your new home,” said Schlosser.

Oxy App
Oxy App

Cathy’s death became known as the “Brighton Ax Murder” and went unsolved for years before the Monroe County District Attorney’s Office reopened it in 2015. Prosecutors and jurors agreed Krauseneck was the best candidate for a suspect because no one else fit the bill.

Controversy ensued following Krauseneck’s arrest because no physical evidence tied him to the crime. Even District Attorney Sandra Doorley admitted it was a “great circumstantial case,” which scratched at possible motives and arguments over timelines.

Prosecutors alleged Krauseneck killed his wife because she uncovered he’d lied to Eastman Kodak – where Krauseneck worked as an economist – about completing his Ph.D., which he hadn’t.

The defense accused the prosecution of grasping at straws.

Convicted killer and sex offender Ed Laraby – who died in prison in 2014 – once confessed to Cathy’s murder, though investigators determined he was a serial confessor who failed to give factual details about Cathy’s murder.

“Everybody told us we couldn’t win a 40-year-old case, but we did,” said Schlosser, according to CBS Rochester affiliate WROC-TV.

Krauseneck’s attorneys vowed to appeal the ruling, while Sara Krauseneck maintains her father was “convicted of a crime he did not commit,” according to WHAM-TV.

Cathy’s family has long voiced their wish that their estranged relationship with Sara could be mended after years of what they perceive to be brainwashing at the hands of her father.

“For 40 years, we’ve lost her love,” Schlosser said, according to the ABC affiliate. “We still love you, Sara, and always will.”