WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) - A young beauty queen charged with strangling
a woman in a jealous rage plotted the killing because she was obsessed
by her love for a dairy farmer, a prosecutor told jurors Thursday.
In opening arguments, District Attorney Greg Grau said he'll prove
Lori Esker planned a "mission of secrecy" when she left her college
campus to confront a former classmate who she thought had stolen her
Ms. Esker, a 20-year-old student at University of Wisconsin-River
Falls, is on trial on a murder charge in the death of Lisa Cihaski. If
convicted, she faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Grau contends that Ms. Esker strangled Ms. Cihaski with
a belt on Sept. 20 in a motel parking lot near Wausau. Ms.
Esker, who was named Marathon County Dairy Princess in June
1989, resigned her title after she was charged in October.
Grau said the plot was based on Ms. Esker's love for 25-year-old
Bill Buss, an Eland dairy farmer. The two dated for about
a year before Buss ended the relationship last summer, Grau said.
Buss then began dating Ms. Cihaski, 21, of Birnamwood, and
friends said the couple were soon to become engaged.
Grau said he would prove Ms. Esker "had a near obsession
with trying to get Bill Buss back," including making repeated
sexual advances, in the months before Ms. Cihaski was slain.
"He (Buss) is going to tell you he resisted those advances
despite her persistence," the prosecutor said. "... The
evidence will show that on Sept. 20 Lori Esker left River
Falls, Wis., on a mission of secrecy." Jurors were selected
from Forest County, about 100 miles from Wasau, because
of pretrial publicity.
According to court records, Ms. Esker told investigators
she grabbed a belt and strangled Ms. Cihaski as the two
argued in a car about Buss. She said she was acting in self-defense.