Medical examiner: South Barrington woman's 2000 drowning death a homicide

  • Frank Buschauer

    Frank Buschauer

Updated 7/16/2019 6:39 PM

Former Cook County Medical Examiner Stephen Cina testified Tuesday he found no evidence Cynthia Hrisco's drowning death 19 years ago in a tub at her South Barrington home resulted from an epileptic attack, seizure, heat stroke or other undiagnosed malady.

Cina testified for the prosecution in the bench trial of Frank Buschauer, who prosecutors say drowned his wife after their three-year marriage began to break down.


Buschauer, 70, has pleaded not guilty. Defense attorney Allan Ackerman told the court during his opening statement that speculation or conjecture do not add up to guilt.

According to Cina, Hrisco, 47 and mother to the couple's infant son, suffered from rheumatoid arthritis but had no history of other ailments. Retained by prosecutors in 2012 to review medical examiner reports from her February 2000 autopsy, Cina said the reports showed no evidence of disease, stroke, heart attack or intoxication.

Except for her lungs, which showed she had drowned, "everything looked normal," he said. "The organs looked good ... Her heart looked perfectly healthy ... Her brain and her heart were fine."

Cook County medical examiner Dr. Scott Denton performed Hrisco's autopsy Feb. 28, 2000, mere hours after officers answered Buschauer's early morning 911 call to find Hrisco lying face down on the floor next to the jetted tub.

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Denton listed drowning as the cause of death but marked the manner of death "undetermined" on Hrisco's original death certificate. Twelve years later, Cina amended the death certificate, replacing "undetermined" with "homicide."

In 2013, prosecutors brought murder charges against Buschauer, who was living in Pell Lake, Wisconsin.

Prosecutors say arguments over Hrisco's complaints about poor construction and cost overruns on their Overbrook Road home, which was built by Buschauer's cousin, led to increased tension in the couple's marriage. Police initially identified Buschauer, a chemical engineer with UOP in Des Plaines, as a person of interest. But at the time, they lacked sufficient evidence to bring charges, according to prosecutors.

Cina also testified about bruises on Hrisco's nose and chin and abrasions or scrapes on the knuckles of both hands, which he said occurred at or near the time of death.

"The abrasions suggest there was an altercation or struggle at the time," said Cina, who also noted a neck injury that he said could have been caused "by someone reaching around and grabbing her neck."

Testimony continues Thursday.

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