Slain Nevada official’s former husband exhumed in Las Vegas | NevadaAppeal.com

Slain Nevada official’s former husband exhumed in Las Vegas

KATHLEEN HENNESSEY
Associated Press Writer

AP Photo/Isaac BrekkenA Clark County Coroner's Office medical examiner photographs the exhumed casket of Charles Augustine three years after his death at a cemetery in Las Vegas this morning. The Clark County coroner's office will perform an autopsy to determine if Augustine's cause of death is consistent with what is listed on his death certificate.

LAS VEGAS ” Authorities exhumed the body of slain Nevada state Controller Kathy Augustine’s former husband this morning, seeking evidence of foul play in his death three years ago.

About 25 police and coroner’s officials watched as a backhoe lifted a pale blue casket from the grave of Charles Augustine in a green Las Vegas cemetery.

“It is going as anticipated,” Clark County Coroner Michael Murphy said.

Murphy took the rare step of retrieving the body to perform an autopsy after Chaz Higgs was arrested and charged with using a paralyzing drug to kill Kathy Augustine.

Officials planned to review the cause of Charles Augustine’s death at age 63. His death certificate listed complications from a stroke.

Murphy said a detailed analysis of Charles Augustine’s tissue samples could take weeks or months.

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Higgs, now 42, is a nurse who cared for Charles Augustine at a Las Vegas hospital. Higgs married Kathy Augustine three weeks after Charles Augustine’s death.

Higgs was arrested Sept. 29 in Hampton, Va., where he waived extradition and awaits transfer in custody to Nevada to face a first-degree murder charge in the death of Kathy Augustine, 50. She died July 11 at a Reno hospital.

Tests later found traces of a powerful muscle relaxant, succinylcholine, in Kathy Augustine’s system. The drug, which paralyzes respiratory muscles, is used by medical personnel to allow the insertion of breathing tubes while patients remain conscious.

Charles Augustine’s adult son, Greg Augustine, 36, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., did not attend the exhumation. In a telephone interview on Monday, he called the process crucial to answer lingering questions about whether Higgs played a role in his father’s death.

“It’s necessary,” he said. “It has to happen.”

Kathy Augustine was campaigning for state treasurer at the time of her death. She had been impeached by the Nevada Assembly, convicted by the Senate for using state equipment on her 2002 campaign and censured, but she had not been removed from office.