Prosecution expert: South Barrington woman's 2000 drowning a homicide

  • Frank Buschauer

    Frank Buschauer

Updated 8/15/2019 6:56 PM

On the last day of testimony in the trial of Frank Buschauer, charged with drowning his wife in the bathtub of their South Barrington home 19 years ago, Cook County prosecutors called upon forensic pathologist Dr. Mary Case to rebut a defense expert who claimed Cynthia Hrisco's death was not a homicide.

Case, the chief medical examiner for St. Louis County and three other Missouri counties, disagreed with defense expert Dr. Christopher Milroy, director of the Eastern Ontario Forensic Pathology Unit in Canada, who said Hrisco's drowning death could have resulted from a seizure, fainting or an unknown genetic condition. Asked about scrapes and bruises on her nose, chin, knuckles and knees and a bruise on her upper neck, he said they could have resulted from convulsions that can occur during drowning.


Case, however, described Hrisco's injuries as significant and said they indicate someone drowned the 5-foot-5-inch, 96-pound woman.

Asked to explain how someone could have drowned Hrisco, Case replied, "a bathtub is a slippery place to be held down. ... A stronger man could do it to a woman without leaving a mark."

Hrisco, 47, was found early Feb. 28, 2000, lying face down near the jetted tub in the master bathroom of the couple's Overbrook Road home. At the time, a Cook County medical examiner determined drowning was the cause of death but listed the manner of death as "undetermined." In 2012, a former Cook County chief medical examiner reviewed the autopsy report and ruled Hrisco's death a homicide. Buschauer, 70, was charged with his wife's murder in 2013. Prosecutors say arguments over construction and cost overruns on their home, which was built by Buschauer's cousin, led to a breakdown in the couple's three-year marriage.

Case also rejected the defense attorney's suggestion that Hrisco experienced a seizure, slipped under the water and drowned that way.

"I don't associate (Hrisco's injuries) with someone having a seizure and going under the water," said Case, who testified for the prosecution in the case of former Bolingbrook police officer Drew Peterson, convicted in 2012 of killing his third wife, Kathleen Savio.

Referring to autopsy reports, Case said evidence indicated "there had been a fairly lengthy time that she was dead and in a facedown position."

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In a 2013 videotaped interrogation with officials, Buschauer told police his wife went to take a bath about 9:30 p.m. the night before she was found. He said he read, watched TV and fell asleep but awoke about 2:30 a.m. to their 13-month-old son crying. Buschauer said he went into the bathroom, saw his wife and pulled her out of the tub.

She was definitely face up," he said in the videotaped interrogation.

Closing arguments are set for 11 a.m. Aug. 23 in Rolling Meadows.

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