Brother "Suspicious" of Augustine's Death

By: Brandan Riley, AP
By: Brandan Riley, AP

As a probe continued into the sudden death of state Controller Kathy Augustine and her husband's suicide attempt, her brother said Monday he's suspicious and will "cooperate 100 percent" with police to help resolve the bizarre case.
"Our family is suspicious about the circumstances,
absolutely," said Philip Alfano, 41, a high school principal from
Turlock, Calif. "But we're not going to rush to judgment."
Reno Police Department spokesman Steve Frady said Monday
investigators are focusing on Augustine's activities leading up to
a 911 call from her husband, Chaz Higgs, on July 8, who said he
found her unconscious in the bedroom of their Reno home. Augustine,
50, died four days later without regaining consciousness.
As the police probe broadened, Higgs, 42, slashed his wrists in
an apparent suicide attempt Friday at the couple's Las Vegas home.
He was released from a hospital later that day, and wasn't present
for Augustine's funeral on Saturday.
Higgs said Augustine suffered a massive heart attack, although
Reno Police Deputy Chief Jim Johns has said that preliminary
"indications" showed no evidence of long-term heart disease.
Frady said that given the high-profile nature of the case,
autopsy tests that normally would be done by a local crime
laboratory to help determine cause of death will be handled by the
FBI's lab in Quantico, Va.
"You have a higher profile individual situation here, and we
have a local crime lab with a heavy, heavy caseload," Frady added.
Frady said the FBI lab's involvement could speed completion of
an autopsy report, although the process still will take "a matter
of weeks."
Frady also said police obtained a search warrant to go through
Augustine's Reno house but found "nothing extraordinary at the
scene." The state Division of Investigations also is involved in
the case, along with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department
as a result of Higgs' suicide attempt.
At Augustine's funeral, friends and state officials described
her as healthy in the days leading up to her unexpected death.
"We are all stopped in our tracks. We are trying to get our
heads around the big questions," Rev. Michael Keliher said,
adding, "Why God? What is this all about?"
Higgs said his wife, a former flight attendant who was a
divisive public figure while serving in the state Legislature and
as state controller, suffered a heart attack brought on by the
stress of an uphill campaign for treasurer.
"We'll have to wait for toxicology reports," Gov. Kenny Guinn
said at Augustine's funeral, adding, "We all knew her as a healthy
person ... she was vibrant, she tried to stay in good physical
shape."
One of Augustine's stepsons, Greg Augustine, 36, of Thousand
Oaks, Calif., said Monday he has "many lingering questions" but
is confident "the truth will be exposed" by police. After
Augustine's funeral on Saturday he said he didn't trust Higgs.
In 2003, his father, Charles, who was Augustine's second
husband, died in the hospital at age 63 from complications related
to a stroke, according to a death certificate.
Higgs was Charles Augustine's nurse. He and Augustine reportedly
married in Honolulu about a month after the death. Higgs also came
to the wake.
"It felt inappropriate." Greg Augustine said, adding that if
his stepmother's toxicology results "don't look good," his
father's body should be exhumed.
Police wouldn't comment on details of a note left by Higgs and
discovered Friday by Augustine's daughter, Dallas Augustine.
"It was a suicide note. It wasn't a confession," the daughter
said.
Kathy Augustine, a Southern California native, was first elected
to office in 1992 as a Republican state assemblywoman. She was
later elected to the state Senate, and became state controller in
1999.
Allegations of official misconduct arose in 2003. She was
impeached by the Assembly and convicted by the Senate for using
state equipment on her 2002 campaign. She was censured but not
removed from office.
Because she was term-limited out of office, she launched a
campaign for treasurer, over the objections of state Republican
Party leadership that did not want to be associated with her
tainted record.
In response to her candidacy, the party passed rule barring it
from recognizing or supporting a candidate who has been impeached
and convicted.


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