Brighton Ax Murder Trial: James Krauseneck left town 24 hours after his wife was murdered in her bed

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. In the Brighton ax murder trial, the jury heard a lead investigator describe what he tried to do to find the killer 40 years ago.

On February 20th, 1982, a day after his then-wife was murdered with an ax in her bed, James Krauseneck moved from his home on Del Rio Drive in Brighton into a hotel on West Henrietta road with his parents and three-year-old daughter.

When Brighton Police investigator Richard Corrigan went to talk to him that day Krauseneck and his family were gone.

“When you arrived at the Marriott was James Krauseneck and his parents still at the Marriott?” prosecutor Pat Gallagher asked.

“No,” Corrigan answered on the stand. “(A clerk) advised they had left.”

Corrigan says he got a key to the room. He said the beds did not appear to be slept in and there were no damp, used towels.

“We had a person murdered and had no reason why someone would do that to this person,” Corrigan said.

Cathleen Krauseneck was found dead in her bed with an ax embedded into her head. The Krauseneck’s daughter Sara was in the house. James Krauseneck told police he left the home at 6:30 a.m. to go to work at Kodak. He returned home at 5 p.m. and discovered his wife’s body.

The prosecution is expected to pinpoint a time of death later in the trial.

A week after the murder, when Corrigan went to Michigan to interview Krauseneck, he testified Krauseneck told him “Please don’t give up on my case. I need to know who did this.”

But Corrigan says that’s the last time he ever heard from Krauseneck or anyone in his family. That was March 1982.

The defense says someone else killed Cathleen Krauseneck and points to Edward Laraby who, as he was dying in prison in 2012, confessed to the Krauseneck murder even though parts of the confession didn’t align with the facts of the case.

“Did Brighton Police attempt to interview Laraby or do anything more to determine his whereabouts on Feb 19, 1982?” asked Krauseneck lawyer Michael Wolford.

“I didn’t do any work (on Laraby),” Corrigan said. “I can’t say (for the rest of Brighton police).”

Corrigan read from a 1982 police report including a transcript of an interview with James Krauseneck in Michigan. The report showed police asked Krauseneck a series of questions from a “million dollar silver deal at Kodak” to Cathy’s “stress,” to a small screwdriver with a yellow handle to an old friend from Michigan who was gay and would send gifts to James and Cathy Krauseneck.

Prior to going to Michigan to interview Krauseneck, Corrigan testified he searched the Krauseneck car in Brighton and found a pamphlet for a local marriage counselor.

In his opening statement Tuesday, Krauseneck attorney Wolford said “there is no motive, no history of domestic violence.”

Corrigan says for years they got tips on the murder. Psychics would call Brighton Police wanting to touch evidence to get a reading. Other people would call and confess but didn’t know any details. One confessor was a mental health patient in Auburn, New York but Corrigan said the only thing in the confession consistent with the facts of the crime was the patient said there was an ax and that fact was already widely reported in local media.

Corrigan says despite years of work they “never came up with viable leads or suspects.”

James Krauseneck was arrested in 2019, three years after the case was reactivated.