Story by 89 WLS Web Writer Kim Rasmussen
A Wisconsin man has been charged with drowning his wife in the bathtub of the couple's South Barrington home in a case that has remained unsolved since 2000.
Retired engineer Frank Buschauer, 64, of Pell Lake, Wisconsin, has been charged with first degree murder in connect with the murder of his wife Cynthia Hrisco, who was 47 at the time of her death on Feb. 28, 2000.
Hrisco's lifeless body was found lying on the floor of the couple's home, located on Overbrook Drive.
Buschauer was arrested near his home on Wednesday and extradited to Cook County from Walworth County, Wisconsin. He appeared in bond court Friday at the Cook County Courts Building in Rolling Meadows where Judge Jill Cerone-Marisi issued a no bail order.
The charge against Buschauer follows an extensive, long-term investigation by the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and the South Barrington Police Department. In recent years, investigators developed additional information in the case that was thoroughly re-examined by prosecutors, the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office and other forensic experts.
“A case may go unsolved for a long period of time, but we never forget our victims and I am pleased that we now have the evidence that is required to bring charges in this case and deliver some measure of justice for Cynthia Hrisco and her family,” State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said.
At the time of the murder in 2000, Buschauer and Hrisco had been married for approximately three years and were living in South Barrington with their 13-month-old child.
Buschauer had called 911 in the early morning hours and reported that his wife had drowned in their bathtub. South Barrington police responded to the home and found the victim lying face down on the floor next to the whirlpool tub. The victim had no pulse, was warm to the touch but in full rigor mortis.
Buschauer was interviewed by police on several occasions following his wife’s death and indicated that it was possible that he killed his wife but that he could not remember. The autopsy conducted at the time of Hrisco’s death identified a hemorrhage to the victim’s neck and abrasions and contusions to her nose, chin and other parts of her body as well as hemorrhages on the scalp and left eye.
The Medical Examiner concluded that the cause of death was drowning, but the manner of death was labeled as undetermined.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office began a cold case review of the murder in 2010 and initiated a series of forensic and medical re-examinations of the evidence, including crime scene reconstruction and a forensic re-enactment in the bathtub in which the victim died. As a result, the Cook County Medical Examiner changed the manner of death to a homicide attributed to the victim being forcibly submerged in the bathtub.
According to prosecutors, the home in which the couple lived at the time of the murder had been built by Buschauer’s cousin in 1997 and Hrisco was extremely upset with the poor workmanship of the house and alleged construction cost overruns, which she believed to be around $200,000.
According to investigators, Hrisco complained to the defendant and to friends about problems with the house and the couple constantly quarreled over the issue. Investigators believe the victim wanted to sue the defendant’s cousin but Buschauer refused to do so, believing it would send his cousin into bankruptcy. During the weeks prior to her death, the victim and the defendant often argued about the house.
Six days prior to her death, Hrisco victim told a friend that her relationship with her husband was worse than ever, and it was because of the construction issues with the house. Shortly before her death, the she told the same friend that she was afraid of Buschauer and that they were no longer living together as husband and wife.
Following his arrest this past Wednesday, Buschauer confirmed that he and his wife had quarreled about the home construction issues and that he had put his hands on her throat and threatened to kill her. When confronted with the evidence he stated he believed his wife’s death was possibly the result of suicide, an accident, or “I killed her.”
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