Expert testifies South Barrington woman's 2000 drowning death was not a homicide

  • Frank Buschauer

    Frank Buschauer

Updated 8/14/2019 7:42 PM

A forensic pathology expert from The Ottawa Hospital in Ontario, Canada, agreed with two former Cook County medical examiners that Cynthia Hrisco drowned early on Feb. 28, 2000, which is when police found her lying face down near the jetted tub in the master bathroom of her South Barrington home.

But Dr. Christopher Milroy, director of the Eastern Ontario Forensic Pathology Unit, disagrees with his Cook County counterparts' homicide determination. Initially, Hrisco's manner of death was listed as "undetermined," but her death certificate was amended in 2012 to read "homicide" -- which led to murder charges against Hrisco's husband, Frank Buschauer, in 2013. Authorities say he drowned his 47-year-old wife after their relationship soured over her complaints about poor construction and cost overruns on their Overbrook Road home, which was built by Buschauer's cousin.


Buschauer pleaded not guilty. His bench trial is underway in Rolling Meadows.

Testifying on Wednesday, defense expert Milroy disagreed with prosecutors' assertion that Hrisco drowned after being "forcibly submerged" in the tub.

Asked about the scrapes on Hrisco's nose, chin, knees and knuckles, Milroy agreed they could have resulted from rubbing against the bottom of the tub or the jets, but he said "one could expect more abrasions from someone held down and fighting for their life."

He also noted no "evidence of grip marks" or bruises on Hrisco's back indicating someone held her face down in the water.

Milroy said Hrisco's injuries could have resulted from convulsions or a seizure that victims may experience during drowning. Asked about the bruise on Hrisco's neck, which Cook County medical examiners suggested may have come from someone putting pressure there while she was submerged, Milroy testified people who die in a head down position -- as Hrisco did -- may show bruising that did not result from external pressure on the neck.

There were also no external injuries to the back or front of her neck suggesting anyone gripped her neck, Milroy said.

"I think there are more valid explanations," he said.

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Earlier, Buschauer's lawyers played the April 2013 videotaped interrogation of Buschauer by South Barrington Police Sgt. Bryant Haniszewski and Cook County State's Attorney investigator Bob Riordan.

During the interrogation, Buschauer, 70, admitted he once put his hands on his wife after she got upset about construction in the kitchen.

"She made a big scene about it," he said. "I put my hands maybe on her neck, maybe on her shoulders and said 'I could kill you.' And I regretted it."

Buschauer told the officers he could not recall what happened that day. To Riordan's suggestion that whatever occurred was unplanned, a "spur-of-the-moment deal," Buschauer replied, "It was one of three things: either a suicide, an accident or I killed her."

Testimony continues Thursday in Rolling Meadows.

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