South Barrington couple's squabbles dominate first day of husband's murder trial

Former South Barrington resident accused of drowning wife

  • Former South Barrington resident Frank Buschauer, who is charged with killing his wife, Cynthia Hrisco, in February 2000, visits with a small group of well-wishers during a break from his bench trial Thursday at the Rolling Meadows courthouse.

      Former South Barrington resident Frank Buschauer, who is charged with killing his wife, Cynthia Hrisco, in February 2000, visits with a small group of well-wishers during a break from his bench trial Thursday at the Rolling Meadows courthouse. Joe Lewnard | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/31/2019 2:25 AM

South Barrington police don't encounter a lot of violent crime. When they do, it sticks with them.

The February 2000 death of nutrition consultant Cynthia Hrisco, 47, who was found lying face down next to the tub in the master bathroom of the home shared with her husband, Frank Buschauer, always troubled Sgt. Bryant Haniszewski.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A medical examiner said she had drowned but was unable to give the manner of her death, which he listed as "undetermined."

"It bothered a number of us who worked on (the case)" said Haniszewski, who as a patrolman was the first to respond to Buschauer's 911 call. "We believed it was a homicide."

Nineteen years later, Haniszewski made that statement under oath during the first day of Buschauer's bench trial on charges he murdered his wife of three years and mother of their 13-month-old son.

During his opening statement, Assistant Cook County State's Attorney David Weiner said Buschauer, 70, likely killed Hrisco "in a fit of rage" over her complaints about shoddy construction and cost overruns on their Overbrook Road home, which was built by Buschauer's cousin.

Defense attorney Allan Ackerman reminded "the court respectfully that nothing has been proven," adding that "proof of guilt is not speculation, conjecture or guesstimates."

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Haniszewski told Cook County Judge Joseph Cataldo he found Hrisco lying beside the tub on a towel with a sweater covering part of her body.

But something Buschauer said struck the officer.

"His clothes were dry, but he stated he pulled Cynthia out of the tub, which had water in it," he said.

Police identified Buschauer, then a chemical engineer with UOP in Des Plaines, as a person of interest but lacked evidence to bring charges. He eventually moved to Pell Lake, Wisconsin, with his son.

In 2010, Haniszewski, then a detective, turned Hrisco's file over to prosecutors, who arranged for an independent review of the case.

The following year, after receiving permission from the homeowners to remove the tub, police recreated the drowning with help of crime reconstruction and water death experts, Haniszewski said.

On April 24, 2013, officers including Haniszewski interviewed Buschauer at the Walworth County sheriff's office in Wisconsin, he said. During the interview, the officers showed Buschauer letters from February 2000 the couple had written each other as part of marriage counseling.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In one, Buschauer apologizes for things he said, Haniszewski testified.

In another, Buschauer wrote: "if we cannot resolve our conflict in a constructive manner, then divorce is preferable to assault or murder."

Earlier, Deborah Karm, formerly Hrisco's client and friend, testified Hrisco told her the marriage had become "increasingly strained" and had described her husband as a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

The trial will resume July 2.

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