BRIGHTON, N.Y. (WROC) — The question in the hands of a jury: Is James Krauseneck guilty of murdering his wife Cathy with an ax in 1982?
Jurors are working with testimony from over 40 witnesses, and dozens of pieces of evidence. Deliberations are their opportunity to request transcripts of anything that happened during the trial. They can also examine the evidence.
Prosecutors have asked jurors to consider holding the murder weapon in their hands while deliberating, to help them connect with the case.
So far Friday, the jury has asked to hear the legal definition of “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” The judge explained to the jury that there is no “probably guilty” or “maybe guilty” verdict — just “guilty” or “not guilty.”
In closing arguments Thursday, defense attorney Bill Easton emphasized two key questions in the trial: Is there proof beyond reasonable doubt that James Krauseneck committed the murder, and what exactly happened that day Cathy was found dead?
The jury began deliberations Friday, and was dismissed around 5:00 p.m. Deliberations are set to continue Monday.
Here’s a brief overview of what the prosecution and defense would like jurors to consider:
Easton says a key piece of evidence in their case is neighbor testimonies.
Eileen Marin lived near the Krausenecks, and testified that she saw James come to her door that evening, ‘drained of color’ and in terror.
The defense attorney argued this was a strong piece of evidence to support his claim that James came home to learn his wife had been murdered.
Easton also brought up testimony from another neighbor, who testified to seeing a “suspicious” and “unusual” jogger in the area that morning around 7:25 a.m., as she was leaving for work. The neighbor said the jogger was not known to her, and was wearing a ski mask and running at a slow pace.
“Brighton Police didn’t charge James Krauseneck [in 1982] because they didn’t have any evidence,” Easton said.
Prosecutors say that there is no evidence to support a “burglary” the day Cathy was found dead; only evidence to support a “staged burglary.”
While Easton brought up FBI statements saying glass was shattered from “outside,” Assistant District Attorney Patrick Gallagher says it was a setup.
The prosecution says their argument is about common sense, and that largely deals with the time Cathy likely died, the state of the house at the time and the motive.
A key piece of discussion: What was the motive for anyone to kill Cathy?
The prosecution says it had to do with James’ relationship with Cathy, and his incomplete Ph.D.
Gallagher brought up a marriage and sex social worker card, found in the Krauseneck car.
Gallagher says Krauseneck moved to Rochester to work at Kodak for a Ph.D. position when he didn’t have the credentials. Gallagher says James was contacted about this a few weeks before Cathy’s death.
“All he had to do was redo a dissertation,” Gallagher said, “but he didn’t do it.”
Easton argues that the motive is a mystery, but, he says there is no evidence to support James is guilty.
“Sometimes life doesn’t make sense. You have to go in that jury room, with the courage to speak those words,” said Easton. “If you don’t know, you have to say. What is a not guilty verdict, sometimes, other than you don’t know?”
“The question is, what happened? It’s a mystery. And to that, I don’t know,” he said.
Sarah Krauseneck was three at the time her mother Cathy was found dead.
According to attorneys, Sarah provided a written statement to Brighton Police in 1982, excusing her from testifying again in the trial.
Sarah wrote about getting up early, her father already at work, and someone in her home she didn’t know…a “bad man, possibly a woman, no clothes/glasses, sleeping in mommy and daddy’s bed with an ax in their head.”
Gallagher says this “bad man” was James Krauseneck, and Sarah was describing seeing her mother, in an unrecognizable state.
“The only reasonable conclusion, is James K went to his garage, grabbed the ax he had used over and over to chop wood, walked up his stairs…and he killed Cathy K while she slept,” said Gallagher.
“He made it look like someone came in, and then he went to work,” he said.
Objects in the home
The prosecution argues the house did not appear burglarized, on the day Cathy was found dead.
“You heard some officers, who were saying the burglary appeared contrived,” Gallagher said. “A gold necklace hanging on the door. Cash on the dresser…what kind of a burglar doesn’t take these things sitting out in the open? The kind that’s not committing a burglary.”
Gallagher also brought up an unusual tea set, lying on the floor as if it had been “carefully placed” there.
Another key piece of evidence in the case is the ax.
“Fingerprints were not on the ax, mull, point of entry,” said Easton. “DNA from the ax excludes James Krauseneck and Sarah. We can’t really nail that down.”
Ed Laraby has been a suspect in the case.
The convicted murderer lived around the corner from the Krausenecks at the time and was found guilty of raping young women and committing several violent acts.
Attorneys have displayed a written confession he wrote before his death in prison, saying he killed Cathy with an ax.
However, some information in the letter is factually incorrect, attorneys say.
Easton argues there hasn’t been enough attention on Laraby, throughout the past 40 years.
“It was written in the context that he was dying, about to face his enemy,” said Easton. “There are some things wrong in the statement…but some are consistent; The notion he wipes down the ax with a bath towel…”
Time of Death
We’ve heard testimony from several medical experts in this case — but their opinions differ on the time of death. Easton says the “best” perspective to calculate time of death, is the original medical examiner, Dr. Lewis. Dr. Lewis calculates time of death between 4:30 a.m. and 7:30 am, plus or minus two hours.
Dr. Michael Baden, world-renowned medical examiner and forensic pathologist, took the stand early in the trial. Baden has assisted in many high-profile cases for decades: including the Attica prison riots, OJ Simpson case, George Floyd death, Jeffrey Epstein death and more.
After studying all the evidence, Baden said he believed Cathy Krauseneck died before James left for work that morning.
Baden said body stiffness, or “Rigor Mortis,” was observed by the original medical examiner that evening. He said it takes at least 12 hours after death to reach that level of Rigor Mortis.
In his opinion, this would mean Cathy died sometime between 9 p.m. the previous evening and 3 or 4 a.m. the next morning — well before James left for work.