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13 years later, husband charged

Frank Buschauer / phofrom South Barringtpolice

Frank Buschauer / photo from South Barrington police

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Updated: May 29, 2013 7:43AM

When police were called to the South Barrington home in the early morning of Feb. 28, 2000, Frank Buschauer told officers his wife Cynthia Hrisco had drowned in their whirlpool tub.

He also said it was possible he had killed his wife — but that he didn’t remember.

On Wednesday, Buschauer was charged with murder after an officer requested that the case be reopened more than a decade after the death.

“The charge against Mr. Buschauer today comes as the result of an extensive and long-term re-investigation,” Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said at a news conference Friday.

“A case may go cold or remain unsolved for an extended period of time, but we never forget our victims.”

Buschauer, now 64, of Pell Lake, Wis., was extradited and charged Wednesday with first-degree murder. On Friday, he was ordered held without bond in the killing of his 47-year-old wife.

The two had been married three years, and had adopted an infant not long before she was killed.

In reopening the cold case, investigators relied on forensics and the unique re-construction tool to re-enact Hrisco’s death in the same bathtub in which she died.

“Based on the body and how it was found, and the injuries sustained — she was found lying on the floor next to the tub with various points of injury to her face, neck, and body that were fresh — by doing reconstruction, we were able to determine how those injuries occurred,” Assistant State’s Attorney Maria McCarthy explained.

Two re-constructionists — one in 2010 and another in 2011 who also was a water death expert — concluded the death was consistent with being held face down by the neck in the bathtub.

And three medical examiners independently reviewing their evidence last year ruled it homicide.

Alvarez said the charges “hopefully bring some measure of justice for Cynthia Hrisco and her family.” Hrisco’s mother had been notified, and the family was pleased, authorities said.

There had been plenty of circumstantial evidence leading police in 2000 to suspect the husband — including growing strife between the couple over the poor construction of their home by Buschauer’s cousin. The home had run $200,000 over budget, and Hrisco wanted to sue.

Buschauer refused, growing increasingly angry at Hrisco’s pursuing the issue, and she told friends in the months before her death that he allegedly threatened to kill her, police said.

But the 2000 autopsy could not determine whether the drowning was accidental or homicide.

The cold case haunted a young officer who’d been first to arrive on the scene the night Buschauer called 911 to report his wife drowned. And in 2010, he asked his chief to reopen it.

“I was the first officer on the scene. I think we all knew that something was wrong, and I think it all stuck in our heads,” said South Barrington Det. Bryant Haniszewski, now 14 years on the force. “I wanted to pursue it.”

It was Haniszewski who went to Walworth County, Wis. this week to arrest the retired engineer, who’d moved there with the couple’s 14-year-old. The child has been placed with other family members.

It was also Haniszewski who interviewed Buschauer. And when asked during questioning who else could have killed his wife, Buschauer stated, “we’ve established that it’s probably me,” authorities said.

“It’s a good closure,” Haniszewski said.

Hrisco’s death certificate, where it previously read undetermined, now lists manner of death as “homicide.” And under “How Injury Occurred,” it now reads, “Forcibly submerged in bathtub.”

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