Producer’s note: On Monday, September 22nd, 2022 a jury found James Krauseneck guilty of 2nd degree murder in his wife’s death. It took over 40 years for this conviction to take place. Cathy’s 95-year-old father said, “I wanted to live long enough to (see) it…My wife passed away four years ago. She didn’t make it.”
A big release for Netflix last year was Things Heard & Seen. The movie is based on a 2016 novel by Elizabeth Brundage and stars Amanda Seyfried as Catherine Clare, a woman whose husband claims he found her in bed with an axe sticking out her her head. The story of her murder mystery is told through flashbacks.
“A year before the murder, Catherine and her husband George (played by James Norton) purchase their dream home in small town New York and move in with their daughter, Franny. They love the house but learn from locals it has a reputation for being cursed. George teaches at a local college and Catherine is an artist from New York City who is now dedicated to fixing up their new home. She hires the orphaned boys of the home’s previous owners to help her, though George suspects they resent the couple for buying their childhood home. The story unfolds to tell the story of Catherine’s murder (and who murdered her) and how the cursed home has affected the generations of women who lived there.”
What viewers might not know is that Elizabeth Brundage based Catherine’s story on a real life unsolved mystery. When Brundage was living in upstate New York, just like her protagonist, she was captivated by the story of a woman in her town who had been axe murdered while she was “alone” with her 3-year-old daughter. Sound familiar?
Cathleen Krauseneck was a 29-year-old stay at home mother to a 3-year-old girl, Sara, living in Brighton, New York. On February 19, 1982 her husband, James Krauseneck, says he returned home from work in the evening to find an axe buried in Cathleen’s head as she lay in their bed. The axe came from the family’s garage and was wiped of prints. Strangely, local police found the house “staged” to look like it had been robbed, though nothing of value was taken. The coroner put her time of death at between 2:30am and 9:30am. Not only did this mean the Krauseneck’s 3-year-old daughter was home all day with her mother’s corpse, it means there was plenty of time for James to commit the murder before he left for work at 6:30am. The entire home had been wiped of fingerprints.
During the investigation, it came out that the couple had been having problems. Neighbors said James was abusive. Cathleen had also recently learned that James Krauseneck lied about having a PhD in order to get his job as an economist at Kodak.
The day after the murder when he was supposed to be answering questions at the police station, James Krauseneck left New York to go to his parent’s home in Michigan. Sara Krauseneck was never questioned by anyone.
Years later when police caught up with James Krausenec at his new home in Seattle to ask him questions, he put his home and yacht on the market two days later and fled to Arizona
It’s important to know that when Brundage heard the story, when she wrote the book, and when the screenplay was adapted, this murder mystery was unsolved. The local police chief died feeling sorry that he wasn’t able to solve this case. In 2015, the FBI cold case division became involved. As technology advanced, DNA and forensic evidence was better able to be studied, new evidence has been produced.
In November 2019, 37 years after Cathleen Krauseneck was axe murdered in her own bed, her husband James Krauseneck was indicted by a grand jury. James is currently living with his fourth wife, Sharon Krauseneck, in Arizona, awaiting trial. After the murder, he became a wealthy Vice President at Weyerhauser. Sara Krauseneck, the couple’s daughter who was 3-years-old and home at the time of the murder, believes her father is innocent. Sara is now 41. Cathleen’s family believes James Krauseneck is guilty because they believe an innocent man would cooperate with police and want to know who murdered his wife.
James Krauseneck, with daughter Sara, heads into court to face charges in the murder of his wife Cathleen back in Feb. 1982. More @DandC @gcraig1 pic.twitter.com/P4mw65DJMv
— Shawn Dowd (@sdowdphoto) November 8, 2019
The book inspired by Cathleen Krauseneck, All Things Cease to Appear, is available on Amazon.