Friend: Augustine sought divorce before death
October 8, 2006
LAS VEGAS – State Controller Kathy Augustine confided in a friend that she regretted her marriage and was ready to divorce Chaz Higgs, shortly before police allege Higgs killed her by injecting her with a paralytic drug.
According to the friend, Sherry Dilley, Augustine confided that her marriage to Higgs in Hawaii, just three weeks after her husband Charles died, was “a big mistake.”
Augustine made the remark earlier this year while comforting Dilley of Minden on the loss of her husband to cancer.
Augustine’s husband of 15 years, Charles, died in August 2003. After his death, Augustine rushed into marriage with Higgs, who had been her husband’s nurse in the hospital. Augustine warned Dilley not to make the same mistake.
“She said, ‘I know you are going to be lonely,”‘ Dilley recalled. “‘It’s going to hit you all the sudden that you are alone. But don’t make the same mistake I did. Don’t listen to someone say they can take care of you.”‘
Not long after Augustine made those comments, she was dead.
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Authorities allege that Higgs, a critical care nurse, injected the 50-year-old in July with a lethal dose of the powerful paralyzing agent succinylcholine at the couple’s home. Authorities have not disclosed a motive for the slaying.
Since Higgs’ arrest Sept. 29 on a murder charge in the death of his wife, investigators are looking into the possibility that Higgs might have killed Charles by poisoning him using the same drug.
Clark County authorities now are preparing to exhume Charles’ body from an east Las Vegas grave.
Augustine’s brother, Phil Alfano, said shortly after Charles’ death, his sister appeared with Higgs at a function of the Augustus Society where she was named Italian American of the Year. To their surprise, she introduced Higgs as her new husband.
“She said he (Higgs) was like an angel,” Alfano said. “She kept using that word, and she talked about how compassionate he was. She had been swept off her feet.
“It sounded very immature,” Alfano said. “Of course we didn’t say anything at the time. I wished her well, but I also told her I thought it was silly for her to rush into it that quickly, and I hoped it worked out.
“I remember my mom talking to Chaz, standing there, saying, ‘I want you to make sure to take good care of her,”‘ Alfano recalled.
Augustine’s friends wondered what she was doing with Higgs. Higgs, who had obtained his associate’s degree in nursing just a year earlier, occasionally showed up at Republican functions in T-shirts.
Some who met Higgs at one of the functions described him as quiet, almost anti-social.
Augustine’s friends figured she’d simply fallen for a shy, younger man who was into physical fitness and his appearance.
“We just figured he was a ladies man – that’s all we thought he was good for,” her friend Heidi Smith said.
“I thought, ‘Well, I guess she’s got some young stud,”‘ said her friend Jerry Bing.
Higgs’ attorney, Alan Baum, has said his client did not stand to gain financially from Kathy’s death.
Higgs also has denied having anything to do with the death of Charles, Baum said.
Smith said the reason for Higgs marrying Augustine “eluded all of us with the exception of money. He wasn’t helping her any (financially).”
Dilley said Augustine hinted that Higgs’ interest in her was primarily financial.
“He wanted a Rolex, he wanted a BMW,” Dilley recalled. “Kathy told me – ‘Don’t. People are going to want things … and once they start asking you, they don’t stop.”‘