Murder of Lisa Cihaski by Lori Esker examined on Mean Girl Murders

Mugshot of Lori Esker
Lori Esker, pictured here in 2016, was sentenced to life but granted parole in 2019. Pic credit: WI Dept. of Corrections

Mean Girl Murders is re-airing an investigation into the murder of Lisa Cihaski, who was killed by Lori Esker, a jealous love rival and the crowned Dairy Princess of Marathon County, Wisconsin.

On September 20, 1989, the 21-year-old Lisa was strangled to death with a belt as she sat in her car with Esker in a parking lot outside the motel where Lisa worked in Rib Mountain, WI.

The pair had been friends while they attended Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School together, but the relationship soured when Lisa began dating Esker’s ex-boyfriend, Bill Buss.

Lisa was engaged to Buss, and the couple hoped to marry the following spring. However, witnesses later told the cops that Esker was still obsessed with Buss and regularly talked about marrying him herself.

Esker allegedly told Lisa she was pregnant with Buss’s baby, and the pair began fighting. The killer later told detectives that she thought Lisa was going to kill her, so she grabbed a belt from the back seat to defend herself.

After strangling Lisa with the belt, Esker returned to her dormitory at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where she was a student, and destroyed the belt in an incinerator. 

Dairy Princess Lori Esker arrested for murder of Lisa Cihaski

When Lisa failed to return home from work, her mother went looking for her daughter and found her body in the car outside the motel. Esker was arrested eight days later, and she subsequently resigned her Dairy Princess title.

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Esker was charged with first-degree intentional homicide. She admitted to killing Lisa during an argument but claimed she never meant to kill her love rival.

The killer’s trial centered around Esker’s intent to murder, with her legal team arguing she should be convicted of a lesser charge such as manslaughter. However, in June 1990, she was convicted of first-degree homicide and sentenced to life, but with the chance of parole.

Esker later appealed the conviction, claiming that the police had used unfair techniques to coax a confession from her. She also argued that the jury was given confusing and misleading instructions. Her appeal was refused.

Lori Esker paroled 30 years after killing Lisa Cihaski

In July 2019, Esker was granted parole and released. She was 50 years old.

This case received a lot of attention from national media and was the first reported case of a woman killing another woman in Marathon County. The case was turned into a movie in 1995 called Beauty’s Revenge.

This episode of Mean Girl Murders is re-aired Thursday at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.

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