A man has been charged in his first wife's brutal ax murder some 37 years after the fact. It's unclear what new evidence has surfaced against James Krauseneck Jr., who claimed to have found 29-year-old Cathleen dead in her bed, with an ax in her skull, after returning from work on Feb. 19, 1982. At the time, New York police mentioned a possible burglary, as a window of the Brighton home had been broken from the outside, possibly with a maul from the unlocked garage, where the ax—scrubbed of fingerprints—had also been, per the Democrat & Chronicle. But though the couple's 3 1/2-year-old daughter described seeing a "bad man" in her parents' bedroom that day, money and jewelry were left in plain sight, the paper reports. And after an initial police interview, Krauseneck left with his daughter for his hometown in Michigan.
"He gave the appearance of wanting to be cooperative. But then he got a lawyer, and we never talked to him again for 34 years," an investigator said in 2016, as police sought help from the FBI, per the News Tribune. Case files were digitized and some evidence was tested for DNA. Now charged with second-degree murder in the death, 67-year-old Krauseneck pleading not guilty in state Supreme Court Friday with his daughter by his side. "She has never doubted her father's innocence," which is "clear," his lawyers say, adding they recall their client "repeatedly giving statements to the police" and "consenting to the search of his home and his car," per People. Cathleen's sister, however, describes the indictment as a "huge step forward." Krauseneck has surrendered his passport and is free on $100,000 bail. A trial is tentatively set for early June. (Read more murder stories.)