Improvements in forensic technology and a detective's dedication led to the arrest of a Wisconsin man for the only unsolved murder in South Barrington's history.
On Wednesday, officers arrested Frank Buschauer in Pell Lake, Wis., on charges he murdered his wife Cynthia Hrisco, 47. Police found the victim, Buschauer's wife of three years and the mother of their then-13-month-old boy, lying face down next to a bathtub in the couple's master bedroom about 2:30 a.m. on Feb. 28, 2000.
An autopsy later that day revealed fresh wounds on the victim, including hemorrhages on her neck, scalp and left eye along with abrasions to her nose, chin, abdomen, knees, arms and knuckles, said Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Maria McCarthy during a hearing Friday in Rolling Meadows during which Buschauer was ordered held without bond.
The autopsy further revealed Hrisco had been in good health. Toxicology reports showed no evidence of alcohol or drugs. Cook County Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Scott Denton determined drowning was the cause of death, but labeled the manner of death as undetermined, McCarthy said.
South Barrington police quickly identified Buschauer as a person of interest, Chief Mike Deegan said Friday.
Prosecutors say Buschauer told investigators shortly after Hrisco's death that he could have killed her, but he didn't remember. At the time, police lacked sufficient evidence to bring charges, Deegan said.
"The advances in forensic science we've gone through helped us tremendously," Deegan said Friday.
That, and the efforts of Brian Haniszewski, a 14-year veteran of the South Barrington police department who was the first officer on the scene in response to Buschauer's 911 call reporting a drowning. Three years ago Haniszewski, now a detective, asked Cook County prosecutors to take a fresh look at the case.
In 2010, at the behest of prosecutors, crime scene re-constructionist Rod Englert re-enacted the drowning in the bathtub where Hrisco died. The following year, water death expert Andrea Zafares conducted a reconstruction using the same bathtub, McCarthy said.
Both said Hrisco's death was consistent with being held face down by the neck in a bathtub, McCarthy said. After reviewing that information, Denton in 2012 determined the manner of death as homicide. That same years, neuro and forensic pathology expert Dr. Mary Schmidt Case, chief medical examiner for several Missouri counties, confirmed those opinions, as did Cook County Medical Examiner Stephen Cina, McCarthy said.
Prosecutors said arguments about poor workmanship and construction cost overruns of their Overbrook Road home led to a breakdown of the couple's marriage shortly before Hrisco's death.
Buschauer's cousin built the house in 1997. Hrisco, who had complained to Buschauer and others about problems with the house, wanted to sue the cousin, which Buschauer refused to do, McCarthy said.
Six days before her death, Hrisco reportedly told a friend her relationship with her husband was worse than ever. Five days before her death, Hrisco told another friend that in October 1999, Buschauer responded to her complaints about the house by grabbing her shoulders and saying, "I want this stopped. If you don't, I'll kill you," McCarthy said. Hrisco made similar statements involving a 1998 threat to another friend four days before her death. McCarthy said.
During an interview with police on Wednesday, Buschauer confirmed he and his wife argued over the house and that he had put his hands on her and threatened to kill her.
He described Hrisco as controlling and "stated he wished he had never married her," McCarthy said.
When confronted with the evidence, he reportedly said that he believed his wife's death was possibly the result of suicide, an accident, or that he had killed her.
When police asked him Wednesday who else could have done this, Buschauer stated that it was probably him but he couldn't recall putting his hands around the victim's neck, McCarthy said. "We've established that it's probably me," McCarthy quoted him as saying.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Buschauer faces 20 to 60 years in prison. He next appears in court on May 13.