19 years after his wife was found drowned in their home, husband is now on trial for her death
The remaining questions surrounding the death of Cynthia Hrisco, found drowned in her South Barrington home 19 years ago, might soon be resolved. And authorities believe the man with the answers is her husband Frank Buschauer, 70, whose murder trial begins today in Rolling Meadows.
On Feb. 28, 2000, police responded to a 911 call from Buschauer reporting his wife of three years and the mother of their 13-month-old son had drowned in their bathtub. Officers arrived about 2:30 a.m. to find Hrisco, 47, in the master bathroom, wearing dry clothes and lying face down on the floor next to the whirlpool tub.
At that time, police said Buschauer was a person of interest but that they lacked evidence to bring charges.
Interviewed by police in 2000, Buschauer told them "it was possible he killed his wife, but doesn't remember," prosecutors said during Buschauer's 2013 bond hearing.
His attorney Allan Ackerman declined to comment. A Cook County state's attorney spokeswoman also declined to comment on the case.
An autopsy at the time revealed fresh scrapes and bruises on Hrisco's stomach, knees, arms, knuckles, nose and chin, according to prosecutors. The medical examiner, Dr. Scott Denton, also noted bleeding on her scalp and left eye. Denton determined Hrisco had drowned but was unable to cite the manner of her death, which he listed as "undetermined."
By that time, improvements in forensic technology prompted Denton to reclassify Hrisco's death as a homicide. Dr. Mary Schmidt Case, a forensic pathology expert and chief medical examiner for several Missouri counties, and Cook County Medical Examiner Stephen Cina confirmed Denton's finding of homicide.
Cook County prosecutors began reviewing Hrisco's death in 2010, partly because of the persistence of South Barrington Police Detective Brian Haniszewski, who was a patrol officer at the time of Hrisco's death and the first officer on the scene.
That same year, crime reconstruction expert Rod Englert re-enacted the drowning in the bathtub where Hrisco died, and in 2011, water death expert Andrea Zafares conducted a reconstruction using the same bathtub. According to prosecutors, both experts said Hrisco's drowning was consistent with a person being held face down by the neck in a bathtub.
Prosecutors in 2013 brought murder charges against Buschauer, who was living in Pell Lake, Wisconsin.
Buschauer has pleaded not guilty. He is free on $2 million bond.
Authorities say the couple's ongoing arguments over poor construction and cost overruns of their home -- which was built by Buschauer's cousin -- angered Buschauer.
In an April 2013 interview with police, Buschauer said that before Hrisco's death "he had put his hands on (her) throat and told her if she didn't stop he would kill her," prosecutors said during his 2013 bond hearing.
Prosecutors say that days before her death, Hrisco told several friends her relationship with her husband had deteriorated and that she feared him.
Last year, following a lengthy appeals process, Cook County Judge Joseph Cataldo -- who is presiding over Buschauer's bench trial -- ruled those prosecution witnesses will be allowed to testify about the statements authorities say Hrisco made regarding her husband and their relationship.