Man found guilty of murder in 2000 drowning of his wife in South Barrington

  • Frank Buschauer

    Frank Buschauer

Updated 8/23/2019 6:10 PM

Frank Buschauer was convicted Friday of murdering his wife in what Cook County Judge Joseph Cataldo called "a senseless death over the building of a house."

Cataldo found Buschauer, 70, guilty of drowning his wife, Cynthia Hrisco, more than 19 years ago in the couple's South Barrington home. 


Comparing evidence to puzzle pieces, Cataldo remarked that pictures come into focus only after all of the pieces are put together. He went on to reference the police interrogation video in which Buschauer could not recall what happened the night his wife died. "It was one of three things: either a suicide, an accident or I killed her," Buschauer said in the video.

"He's dipping his toe into the water of confession," Cataldo said of the interrogation. "You can see the wheels spinning in the videotape, the shifting sands of the guilty mind."

Hrisco's body was found early on Feb. 28, 2000, lying face down near the jetted tub in the master bathroom of the couple's Overbrook Road home.

Authorities say the couple's relationship had soured over Hrisco's complaints about the poor construction and cost overruns on their home, which was built by Buschauer's cousin. Angry over her demands that they sue the cousin, Buschauer drowned his wife while their 13-month-old son slept in another room, authorities said.

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A Cook County medical examiner determined drowning caused Hrisco's death but initially listed the manner of death as "undetermined."

At the time, authorities lacked sufficient evidence to file charges against Buschauer, who eventually moved to Pell Lake, Wisconsin.

In 2010, Sgt. Bryant Haniszewski, a police veteran and the first officer on the scene, asked prosecutors to take another look at the case. Two years later, a second former Cook County medical examiner reviewed the autopsy report and ruled Hrisco's death a homicide. The following year, Buschauer was charged with Hrisco's murder.

During the videotaped interrogation, Buschauer admitted he once put his hands on his wife's neck or shoulders and said "I could kill you" but regretted he had done so. He told authorities he fell asleep about 10:30 p.m. Feb. 27, 2000, while Hrisco bathed and awoke hours later to their son crying. He said he entered the bathroom and approached the tub but couldn't see Hrisco through the murky water.

He said he reached in, pulled her out, noticed she wasn't breathing and laid her on the floor. Later, after police confronted him about scrapes on Hrisco's nose, chin and knuckles and a bruise on her neck, he claimed he could not recall what happened that night.


Cataldo did not find that statement credible.

"Maybe you don't remember to shut the downstairs light off ... but you don't forget drowning your wife," he said.

Buschauer sat quietly, his hands clasped below his chin as Cataldo pronounced him guilty.

"The only person who could have committed (the crime), who did commit (the crime) is the defendant," Cataldo said, revoking Buschauer's bail and ordering him into custody. Rising, Buschauer mouthed "I love you" to his distraught son.

Hrisco's family and Buschauer's family declined to comment on the verdict. But Buschauer's attorney Allan Ackerman said, "We'll win his appeal."

Buschauer next appears in court on Oct. 1.

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