On February 19, 1982, a cold and snowy day in Brighton, NY, James Krauseneck killed his sleeping wife Cathy (29) with a single ax blow. Then, he left her dead body and their three-year-old daughter alone in the house while he went about his usual work day at Eastman Kodak Co. For almost 40 years he got away with the brutal crime.
What the neighbor saw
Their neighbor, Joanne Bouvier, worked with James at Eastman Kodak Co. When returned to her house she saw the medical examiner vehicle at the Krauseneck’s house. The police told her there had been a burglary, and Joanne tried to remember anything unusual she had seen that day in the neighborhood. She wondered if the strange jogger she saw that morning had something to do with the crime.
Where did James and Cathy meet?
James and Cathy Krauseneck were high school sweethearts in Michigan. James came from a prominent family in the community that owned a local carpet store. Cathy’s mother was extremely proud that her daughter married someone who came from such a high social status.
For a while, James and Cathy moved to Colorado where James went to graduate school in economics. While they were there Cathy gave birth to their daughter Sara. After James graduated, the family relocated to the Rochester, N.Y. area where he got the got at Eastman Kodak.
A missed appointment
The day Cathy died her friend Gloria Winkowski was supposed to take Cathy and Sara to a doctor’s appointment. Gloria kept calling Cathy because she was worried after the missed appointment, and eventually a police officer answered the phone.
The only witness was a 3 year old girl
3-year-old Sara had been left alone all day and looked as if she had dressed herself. James acted very concerned about his daughter.
He told police that everyone had been asleep when he left the house that morning and went back home right before 5 p.m. and saw a smashed windowpane. When he went inside he said he found his wife deceased in her bed with an ax in her head.
James immediately took his daughter to a neighbor’s house. While staying there, Sara coped with her harrowing day by drawing a stick drawing of her mother lying in her bed.
She was the only witness, and she told police that her father had already left for work when she got up that day. No one was there to make her breakfast. She says she saw a “bad man” in the house in “Mommy’s bed.”
The man had “long blond hair,” wore no clothes, and spent a long time in the house. Eventually police realized that she was not describing the perpetrator, but was instead describing her mother, who she could no longer recognize.
Did Ed Laraby murder Cathy?
Investigators soon set their sights on Ed Laraby, a convicted rapist who lived nearby. Ed said he was at work during the crime, and his alibi checked out. Also, there was no sign that Cathy had been sexually assaulted.
Ten years later, though Ed Laraby did kill someone. In 1991 he murdered Stephanie Kupchynsky.
A staged burglary
The scene at the house didn’t look like a typical burglary. Police said that it looked like someone had broken the glass on the door even though the door was already unlocked.
Instead of a chaotic mess, a silver tray had been carefully placed on the floor.
Investigators felt like Cathy’s murder may have been committed by someone she knew.
The case goes cold, and a murderer emerges
Police soon got a letter that claimed Cathy had been having an affair, but that led to no other evidence. Detectives spoke to hundreds of people about the case, but could find no real lead.
The case went cold until 2012, when former suspect Ed Laraby admitted to the 1991 murder of Stephanie Kupchynsky. He said that he had raped Stephanie, and then decided he needed to kill her to get rid of the witness.
Ed had committed a number of rapes, and often wore a ski mask when he did these heinous acts.
At the time Ed was in prison for a series of sex crimes, and he severely ill. On his deathbed in 2014 Ed confessed to killing Cathy Krauseneck.
After Ed’s confession, investigators decided to perform modern DNA testing on the murder weapon, which had never been tested at all.
Detectives even noticed a shoe print of the murderer that matched boat shoes, which most likely would not have been worn by an intruder coming in from the snow. They then saw boat shoes in the crime scene photos in the bedroom.
What James did after Cathy’s death
James married three times after Cathy’s murder. He ended the marriage with first wife very abruptly while she was having her morning coffee. Still, this isn’t evidence of murder.
In 2019 James was arrested, but there still was no smoking gun. Prosecuters argued that James was most likely his wife’s killer because there was no other evidence that anyone else did it.
In November 2022 James was sentenced to 25 years-to-life in prison.