In 1982, James Krauseneck Jr.’s first wife was killed in New York state by an ax to the head; 34 years later, police came calling on the Gig Harbor man.
In April, investigators from the Brighton Police Department talked with Krauseneck about the unsolved homicide of Cathleen Krauseneck, 29, the first of his four wives.
Police declined Monday to reveal specifics about the visit but said Krauseneck, whom they identified as a senior vice president of sales for Weyerhaeuser, remains a person of interest in the death.
“At this time, he is the only one,” lead investigator Mark Liberatore said.
Phone calls and emails left for Krauseneck, 64, by The News Tribune were not returned Monday.
When his wife was killed Feb. 19, 1982, Krauseneck was an executive for Eastman Kodak Co. in Rochester, New York.
Media and police accounts at the time tell the following:
Krauseneck told police he went to work about 6:30 a.m., and returned home just before 5 p.m. to find his wife still in bed with an ax from the garage buried in her skull.
The couple’s 3-year-old daughter, who was home alone with her mother’s body all day, was safe in her bedroom.
Police in 1982 surmised a burglar might have killed Cathleen Krauseneck because a window was shattered from the outside. An ax and maul, used for splitting wood, were taken from the Krausenecks’ unlocked garage.
The 2 1/2-foot handle of the ax had been wiped clean, leaving behind no fingerprints.
Investigators interviewed Krauseneck that night and arranged for a follow-up interview the next day. Police were surprised when he took his daughter and left town without participating in the second interview.
Officers immediately made the journey to Mount Clemens, Michigan, where the Krausenecks were from, and spoke to James Krauseneck and other family members.
He agreed to allow a child psychologist to speak to his daughter, but it never happened.
“He gave the appearance of wanting to be cooperative,” Liberatore said. “But then he got a lawyer, and we never talked to him again for 34 years.”
A letter from Krauseneck’s attorney at the time claimed police harassed his family and ordered that all future contact go through the attorney.
It would be three years before Krauseneck spoke publicly about his wife’s murder and then only because Brighton, New York, police came to Michigan and told reporters they were confused by the lack of cooperation from Krauseneck and his family.
“They’re all reluctant to offer information,” a Brighton detective told The Macomb Daily in a 1985 article. “It’s like Cathleen was murdered, taken off the face of the Earth and no one wants to help.”
Krauseneck countered by saying police were pointing fingers under mounting pressure to solve the case and were not equipped to deal with such a serious crime.
“Quite frankly, I wish some other organization would get involved in the investigation because Brighton just doesn’t see this type of case very often,” he said in 1982.
The case, which rattled the affluent community of colonial homes outside Rochester, eventually went cold.
In the meantime, Krauseneck moved to Washington and began working at Federal Way-based Weyerhaeuser, one of the world’s largest private owners of timberlands.
The company Monday declined to provide information on his employment history. When notified about the reason for the inquiry, a Weyerhaeuser spokeswoman offered no comment.
Krauseneck had an active voicemail box with the company Monday.
Over the years, tips about Cathleen Krauseneck’s death trickled in, and Brighton police diligently checked them out.
No real progress was made until last year, when Brighton Police Chief Mark Henderson heard about a new initiative from the FBI’s Buffalo office that offered resources to cold cases.
In April 2015, the chief and Liberatore presented the Krauseneck case to the FBI’s Cold Case Working Group, which includes about three dozen people from federal agencies, local police departments, medical examiner offices, district attorney offices and crime labs.
The FBI offered its assistance and has digitized case materials as well as provided new investigative ideas and forensic testing at its lab in Quantico, Virginia.
Although some forensic testing was done in 1982, the technology has significantly improved since then, and more DNA tests are possible, Henderson said.
The department still maintains more than 100 pieces of evidence from the case. Investigators are determining which ones should be forensically tested, the chief said.
“This is justice for Cathleen,” Henderson said. “That’s what this is all about.”
The renewed push in solving Cathleen’s death thrills her parents and sister, who still live in Michigan.
Her father, 90, and mother, 88, seek daily updates, said Cathleen’s younger sister, Annet Schlosser.
“We’ve lived this horrible, unbelievable nightmare, and it has torn our family apart with grief and sadness,” Schlosser said Monday. “I really want to see this case closed. My parents need to have justice so they can rest.”
Schlosser remembers her older sister as a beauty who turned heads when she walked into the room, a doting mother with a heart of gold.
Cathleen Schlosser and James Krauseneck went to high school together but didn’t start dating until they were students at Western Michigan University, the family said.
After they married, they lived in Colorado and Virginia for a time before moving to Brighton.
The family believes the couple began having marital problems in the months before her death.
Police said Krauseneck was having problems at his job with Kodak, allegedly because he had lied about receiving a doctorate degree – something Cathleen discovered, Schlosser said.
She questions why Krauseneck immediately left the Brighton area after her sister’s death and said she is angry he kept her niece from the family over the years.
Krauseneck’s daughter could not be reached by The News Tribune for comment. Investigators said they recently interviewed her and she welcomed the renewed attention on her mother’s case.
Police declined to reveal details about their interview with Krauseneck, which took place in April. They said he has since retained attorneys in New York and Washington.
Two days after Brighton police left Washington, Krauseneck and his current wife listed for sale their 3,352-square-foot house along the eighth fairway of Canterwood Golf & Country Club.