Buschauer gets 25 years for drowning wife 19 years ago

  • Frank Buschauer

    Frank Buschauer

Updated 11/8/2019 11:43 PM

Frank Buschauer, convicted of drowning his wife 19 years ago in the couple's South Barrington home in what a Cook County judge had described as "a senseless death over the building of a house" will spend the next 25 years in prison.

Cook County Judge Joseph Cataldo's sentence amounts to life in prison for Buschauer, 70, who prosecutors said killed his wife, Cynthia Hrisco, then 47, after arguments over cost overruns and poor construction of their Overbrook Road home led to their marriage breaking down.


Cataldo referred to dozens of letters from Buschauer's friends and family members describing him as a gentle, generous, churchgoing man.

"But I cannot lose sight of the nature and circumstances of the offense," Cataldo said.

Angry over her demands that they sue his cousin, who built the house, Buschauer drowned his 96-pound wife while their 13-month-old son slept in another room, authorities said.

"He did this with his bare hands to the mother of his newly adopted child," Cataldo said, referring to Hrisco as "unsuspecting, vulnerable, with no way of knowing what was to come."

"The last face she would see was of that man, Frank Buschauer, choking her ... Frank Buschauer the murderer," he said.

Their child, David Buschauer, on Friday expressed love for his father in a statement to the court, calling him "generous and righteously motivated."

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"He sees the good in everyone," said David Buschauer, 20, who expressed sympathy for Sophie Hrisco, Cynthia's mother, saying he felt "her pain as this tragic accident is dredged up again." He said Sophie Hrisco gave him his mother's Bible, which he carried as he spoke outside the courtroom.

"I believe in his innocence. I believe he'll win on appeal or die trying," said David Buschauer, a junior at Columbia College Chicago.

Speaking after the hearing of Buschauer's conviction and sentence, Sophie Hrisco said, "It's a load off my mind."

Hrisco was found early on Feb. 28, 2000, lying facedown near the jetted tub in the master bathroom of the couple's home. A Cook County medical examiner determined Hrisco drowned but listed the manner of death as "undetermined."

In his statement to the court, Buschauer maintained his wife's death was an accident. He expressed sorrow that his son lost his mother and that Cynthia's mother lost her beloved daughter.


He concluded saying to Cataldo, "I ask God to forgive you and this court for this miscarriage of justice."

Buschauer, a former chemical engineer with UOP in Des Plaines, told police he fell asleep around 10:30 p.m. Feb. 27, 2000, while Hrisco was bathing. He said he awoke several hours later to their baby's cries.

He said he entered the bathroom and approached the tub. Reaching in, he pulled Hrisco out, noticed she wasn't breathing, laid her on the floor near the tub and called 911, he said.

Police said they lacked sufficient evidence to charge Buschauer at that time, even though his wife had scrapes on her nose, chin and knuckles and a bruise on her chin, which authorities say indicated a struggle. But Sgt. Bryant Haniszewski, who was the first officer to arrive at the Buschauer's home that night, had long believed Hrisco's death was a homicide.

In 2010, Haniszewski turned the evidence over to Cook County prosecutors, who conducted an independent review of the case. The next year, after receiving permission from the then-owners of the Overbrook Road home to remove the tub, authorities re-created the drowning with assistance from a crime scene reconstructionist and a water death expert.

In 2012, the Cook County medical examiner amended the manner of death to "homicide."

In April 2013, detectives interviewed Buschauer in Wisconsin, where he was then living. He described his wife as difficult and controlling and admitted the couple had relationship problems. During the interrogation, Buschauer also admitted that once, during an argument, he put his hands on Hrisco's neck or shoulders and told her, "I could kill you." But he told officers he regretted it.

Speaking after the sentence, defense attorney Alan Ackerman said he plans to appeal.

"We will be vindicated by a higher court," he said. "We have respect for the judge, but he was simply wrong as a matter of law."

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