Arrest raises more suspicion in Nevada controller case
Associated Press Writer
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The arrest of a critical-care nurse in the killing of his wife, Nevada State Controller Kathy Augustine, is raising dark suspicions about the unexpected death of her previous husband, authorities and a family member said Saturday.
Chaz Higgs, 42, was arrested in Virginia on Friday and charged with killing Augustine by injecting her with a paralyzing drug last July.
Higgs, a critical-care nurse, had worked at the hospital where Augustine’s previous husband was taken after a stroke three years earlier.
Charles Augustine, 63, died in August 2003 of complications from the stroke, according to his death certificate. Higgs and Augustine were married three weeks later in Hawaii.
Las Vegas police homicide Lt. Lewis Roberts said Saturday Higgs’ possible involvement in Charles Augustine’s medical care warrants a review. He said his department has been contacted by the Clark County district attorney and plans to meet Monday to discuss the case.
“Based on the fact that (Higgs) was this guy’s nurse and he’s been arrested in her death, we’ll have to look into that,” Roberts said.
Charles Augustine’s 36-year-old son said the facts of his father’s death never made sense to him. He said his father, an airplane pilot, had suffered a second stoke while hospitalized, but appeared to be recovering when he suddenly died.
“There was talk of moving him into the rehabilitation wing. Kathy and I were talking about who was going to care for him after his release. His death was a complete shock,” Greg Augustine told The Associated Press.
Augustine said that his stepmother and father had been going through a divorce after 15 years of marriage, adding that he was aware his stepmother was developing a relationship with Higgs while his father was hospitalized. Higgs showed up at Charles Augustine’s wake, he said.
“I was suspicious. I knew they married quickly. It all seemed very convenient for Chaz,” he told the AP.
Augustine said he has hired a Las Vegas lawyer to explore the possibility of exhuming his father’s body.
Police said Friday that Higgs used the drug succinylcholine to kill his wife, who was first elected controller in 1999 and was running for state treasurer at the time of her death.
A police affidavit filed in court Friday states that Higgs had access to the drug and to syringes at his job. It says he told another nurse – the day before he called authorities to the couple’s Reno home to say his wife was unconscious – that he would use the drug if he wanted to kill someone because it was undetectable.
According to the affidavit, the co-worker said Higgs also stated he was having marital troubles and “intended on ending his relationship” with Augustine.
Higgs called a news conference to say Augustine had died of a massive heart attack. But the affidavit says an initial examination turned up no signs of heart disease. The autopsy did find a “a suspicious needle injection injury on Ms. Augustine’s buttock,” the document says.
Three days after Augustine’s death, Higgs tried to commit suicide. He was released from a hospital later that day, and didn’t attend his wife’s funeral the following day.
He has denied having anything to do with his wife’s death. The night before attempting suicide, he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he welcomed the police investigation.
Higgs was arrested in Hampton, Va., where police said he was traveling to visit his father and stepmother, who live there. Authorities have called a news conference Monday to discuss details of the case.