Brighton Ax Murder Trial: the anonymous letter and the star witness
ROCHESTER, N.Y. — We are coming up to the most anticipated day in the Brighton ax murder trial.
At 2 o’clock Wednesday, the prosecutor’s star witness testifies. His name is Dr. Michael Baden. He’s a pathologist and a bit of a celebrity. He’s worked on the O.J. Simpson case, the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri and hosted a show on HBO.
See our complete coverage of the Brighton Ax murder trial
- Day 1: 40 years ago Krauseneck looked “horrified”
- Day 3: James Krauseneck left town 24 hours after his wife was murdered in her bed
- Day 4: Sister of the victim initially didn’t think James Krauseneck did it. That’s changed
- Day 4: Cop who discovered the crime scene says “it’s haunted me for a long time”
- Day 6: The anonymous letter and the star witness
- Day 7: Famed Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Baden testifies for prosecution
- Week two of the Brighton ax murder trial testimony continues on Tuesday
Dr. Baden is expected to pinpoint a time of death for Cathleen Krauseneck that police have said puts her then-husband James Krauseneck in the home when it happened.
So far, testimony in the trial puts James Krauseneck leaving his home in Brighton on February 19, 1982, at 6:30 in the morning. This is what the Brighton police chief said about new information on the time of death when Krauseneck was indicted in 2019.
“I believe the timeline will put Jim Krauseneck at home, in the house, during the commission of the crime,” Chief David Catholdi said in November 2019. “So there was no, again, there was no outside party in the house during the commission of the crime.”
The time of the crime is based on the investigation by Dr. Baden.
Bill Easton is one of Krauseneck’s lawyers.
“We have a number of medical pathologists that are going to testify to the opposite from what Dr. Baden will testify including Dr. Evelyn Lewis who was the medical examiner at the time,” Easton said.
Dr. Lewis died in 2018.
In court Tuesday, Judge Charles Schiano told the jury Dr. Lewis would have testified the time was death was sometime between 4:30 am and 7:30 am, an hour after Krauseneck left for work.
The jury also heard from Krauseneck’s assistant at Kodak. On the day of the murder, she said Krauseneck was “in a hurry” and “rushed.”
“It was different on the 19th,” she said. “He was pretty calm and cool. On the 19th he wasn’t.”
The Anonymous Letter
Monday we told you about all the 40-year-old evidence tested for DNA. Included in that list is an anonymous letter sent to police. A lot of you asked us to find out more about the letter.
We could not obtain the letter’s content because not even the jury has seen it yet and they will be the first.
But we can tell you it was handwritten and mailed to the Brighton police department on February 20, 1982, a day after the murder.
That means the letter showed up less than 24 hours after Cathy Krauseneck’s body was found in the bedroom of her house. She was killed with one swing of an ax.
Bill Easton, Krauseneck defense lawyer: “A letter sent to the Brighton Police Department for someone who said they went to the door that day, saw a young girl, and was a married man who said he wasn’t going to say who he was but sent it to the police.”
Brean: “Does it say anything else?”
Easton: “No that’s basically what it says.”
The prosecutors are not talking on camera until the end of the trial. Off camera, they told me the letter was handwritten and arrived to the police the day after the murder.
Brean: “And did the letter try to tell police about what that person might have seen or heard?”
Easton: “I think all he had seen was the little girl there. But the letter was, he was knocking at the door for some reason.”
The little girl was Sara Krauseneck, the couple’s daughter. She was three years old at the time.
Based on the testimony, she was home with her mother murdered in her bed all day.
The FBI recently tested the flap of the envelope containing the anonymous letter and did not find any DNA.