On February 19, 1982 I was a 34-year-old stay-at-home mom living in Rochester NY when my sister phoned to tell me a woman about my age had been murdered in her home near where we lived. Her 3 1/2-year-old daughter Sara had been left all day in the house: Upstairs Cathy Krauseneck’s body, an ax embedded in her head, lay where she had been asleep in the master bedroom of their neat suburban house in Brighton, a Rochester suburb.
Unsubstantiated rumors spread like wildfire: The husband, an economist with Eastman Kodak Company, did it. Theories about motive abounded. The single fact that most stunned and horrified me was that a little girl, only slightly older than my two baby boys, had been left alone in that house.
My sister and I had long been intrigued about murders without apparent motive, particularly murders by strangers. I had been writing mainstream fiction for many years. In the summer of 1991 I decided to research and begin to write a non-fiction book about the Krauseneck murders, the first of my true crime writing projects. I began by having breakfast with Detective Gary Printy, then retired, who was the primary investigator on the case. He told me that the house appeared to have been staged to look like a burglary attempt, but no valuables were taken. More oddly still, he said there were no fingerprints at the murder scene. I interviewed Brighton Police Chief Tom Voelkl who described the investigation, answered my questions, and arranged to have me spend a day with one of his investigators. A friend hosted a meeting with a woman who knew Cathy Krauseneck in Rochester and who offered her opinions and described conversations she had with Cathy near the time of the murder. I drove to Mt. Clemens MI, the home of the Krauseneck family and the Schlossers, who were Cathy’s family, where I interviewed family members and conducted research at the County courthouse and public library. I toured the Krauseneck home on Del Rio Drive and photographed all the rooms.
After several years of research, conducting interviews, and writing, I hit a dead end. There had not been an arrest for the crime and so my story could have no satisfying end. I put my notes away. Eventually I retired and moved with my husband to Florida. Then, in November 2019, 37 years after the murder was committed, I got an email from a Rochester friend. A Monroe County NY grand jury had indicted James Krauseneck for the murder of his wife.
Advances in forensic technology had allowed detectives, with assistance from an FBI cold case task force, to re-examine the case and develop refined evidence they felt was sufficient to prosecute the case. Krauseneck was arrested and is now out on bail living with his fourth wife in Arizona. He awaits a trial that was scheduled to begin this month before the coronavirus slowed down the world.
I will never know why I kept all my notes and drafts and photos about the case, but I did. And in November, I got a call from Nancy Monaghan who had been a reporter, editor, and publisher for Gannett News Service and U.S.A. Today. She and her colleague Laurie Bennett, also a reporter who had worked for a Rochester newspaper at the time of the Krauseneck murder, had begun to write a book about the case. Would I be willing to discuss it with her if she flew to Sarasota to meet? I would. I did, and I gave her my case files to add to the mountain of information she and Laurie had already collected and were analyzing. They have a website with greater detail about the case that I have embedded below. I hope to be in Rochester for the trial, and look forward to Nancy’s and Laurie’s book.