No evidence of foul play was found in the exhumed body of the former husband of late Nevada state Controller Kathy Augustine, the Clark...
LAS VEGAS — No evidence of foul play was found in the exhumed body of the former husband of late Nevada state Controller Kathy Augustine, the Clark County coroner said Tuesday.
The report effectively clears Chaz Higgs, a former nurse who had provided care for Charles Augustine, of involvement in his death. Higgs — who married Kathy Augustine three weeks after her husband died — awaits trial in her death.
Kathy Augustine died July 11 at a Reno hospital at age 50. Higgs was arrested Sept. 29 in Hampton, Va., on a first-degree murder charge. Authorities have reported finding traces of the powerful muscle relaxant succinylcholine in Kathy Augustine’s body and have blamed Higgs for administering the drug.
Charles Augustine died of natural causes in August 2003 at age 63, Coroner Michael Murphy said Tuesday, citing what he said was an exhaustive review of samples taken from the body, which was disinterred Oct. 10.
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“The cause of Augustine’s death is a stroke,” Murphy said, noting Augustine also had heart disease and severe pneumonia.
Augustine’s remains were exhumed from a Las Vegas cemetery as part of a police investigation of Higgs.
“I know a number of the investigative agencies in this case had attempted, at least by inference, to tie Charles’ death to Kathy Augustine’s on the theory this was some sinister plan by Chaz Higgs to eliminate the husband, woo the grieving widow, marry her and carry her riches off into the sunset,” said Higgs’ lawyer, David Houston.
“It is a relief to note this theory is as faulty as the prosecution is in its entirety.”
Dallas Augustine, Kathy Augustine’s daughter and Charles Augustine’s stepdaughter, issued a written statement calling the coroner’s ruling closure for family members.
“They now know that Charles died of natural causes and not at the hands of a criminal,” Dallas Augustine said. “Charles was a good man. I hope this brings some measure of peace to the family.”
Gary Telgenhoff, the county medical examiner, found no evidence of succinylcholine, heavy metals, strychnine, cyanide “or common drugs of abuse” in Charles Augustine’s body, the coroner said.
Houston characterized Higgs as “extremely happy” about the Charles Augustine autopsy results and said his client looked forward to going on trial in Kathy Augustine’s death.
Higgs, 42, has pleaded not guilty and was freed on bail to await his trial next month. He could face up to life in prison if convicted.
Tom Barb, chief deputy Washoe County district attorney, said that evidence in the Kathy Augustine death clearly points to Higgs, and that the investigation of Charles Augustine’s death was a separate matter.
“Their result doesn’t affect our case at all,” Barb said.
Doctors initially believed Kathy Augustine had a severe heart attack before she was taken to a hospital July 8. She lapsed into a coma and died three days later.
Higgs attempted suicide in Las Vegas three days after her death. He was released from a hospital the day of her funeral but did not attend it.
Kathy Augustine had been impeached by the Nevada Assembly. She was convicted by the Senate and censured for using state equipment in her 2002 campaign for state controller, but she was not removed from office.