The body of slain Nevada state Controller Kathy Augustine's second husband will be exhumed so police can investigate whether he was murdered.
Clark County District Attorney David Roger said Monday that
investigators need to determine if Charles Augustine's remains have
traces of a paralytic drug that authorities say killed Augustine in
Las Vegas police homicide Lt. Lew Roberts said investigators
would look for inconsistencies in the death of Charles Augustine,
who was 63 years old when he died in August 2003. His official
cause of death was listed as complications from a stroke.
Roberts said it too early to say the exhumation - planned
Wednesday at Augustine's burial site in Las Vegas - was part of a
Charles Augustine was being cared for at a Las Vegas hospital by
Chaz Higgs, a critical-care nurse who married Kathy Augustine in
Hawaii three weeks after Charles Augustine died.
Higgs, 42, was arrested in Hampton, Va., on Friday and charged
with killing Kathy Augustine by injecting her with the paralyzing
drug succinylcholine, a muscle relaxant.
Higgs appeared in court Monday in Virginia and waived
extradition to Nevada.
Roger said the Clark County medical examiner told him that if
the drug was injected intravenously in 2003, it would be difficult
to detect today.
"But if it was injected into muscle tissue, we would have a
good likelihood of detecting it," the district attorney said.
Augustine's 36-year-old son, Greg Augustine, said he and his
brother, Larry Augustine, met with investigators in Las Vegas and
supported the decision to exhume their father's body.
"I said before I think it would be irresponsible if we didn't
look into the events surrounding my dad's death and the way it went
down," Greg Augustine said.
Charles Augustine, an airplane pilot, had been hospitalized
after suffering a stroke but appeared to be recovering when he
The son said he did not plan to attend the exhumation.
"At this point, it's my father's remains, not my father," he
Roger said investigators wanted to be sensitive to family
"But in cases of murder it is imperative that we pursue the
investigation," he said.
Reno Police Chief Michael Poehlman said it was a doctor's hunch
that helped investigators determine Kathy Augustine was killed by
an injection of succinylcholine and did not die of a heart attack.
"It was good work by the folks in the hospital," Poehlman said
at a Monday new conference. "Doctors had some suspicions. They
froze some urine as a sample because of the belief that something
may have been done in this case and it was in this sample that this
drug was found."
Higgs, 42, told authorities in July that Augustine suffered a
heart attack brought on by stress even though she was in good
health. Augustine, 50, the only constitutional officer in Nevada
history to be impeached and convicted, was barred by term limits
from running again for controller and was campaigning for state
treasurer at the time of her death.
She was cited in 2004 for using state equipment in her 2002
re-election campaign and censured, but not removed from office.
According to the affidavit seeking Higgs' arrest, Higgs, who
worked as a critical-care nurse at Carson-Tahoe Regional Medical
Center, told a co-worker the day before Augustine was hospitalized
that he was having marital problems and planned to end his
The affidavit said Higgs referred to this year's case in Reno in
which Darren Mack is charged with killing his wife and shooting the
judge handling their divorce. He called the killing "stupid" and
said if he were going to murder someone, he would administer
succinylcholine, which he believed was undetectable after death.
Augustine's urine sample tested positive for succinylcholine,
Within the past five years, technology has improved to detect
the drug, although it "deteriorates rather quickly in the body,"
Poehlman said only two laboratories in the country are
sophisticated enough to test for succinylcholine, which is why it
took more than two months to issue an arrest warrant.
Poehlman made his remarks a few hours after Higgs waived
Poehlman said Nevada investigators had interviewed Higgs, who
kept them apprised of his whereabouts, but the attorney who
represented Higgs at the extradition hearing said his client was
surprised when he was arrested.
"I think he's pretty upset," Mike Maguire said Monday. "He
didn't know he was a suspect until they picked him up."
Higgs, handcuffed and wearing an orange Hampton City Jail
jumpsuit, said nothing during the extradition hearing. Nevada
authorities have 30 days to return him to Reno.
"The best way to defend yourself is to go home and defend and
that's what he's going to do," Maguire told reporters outside
In Reno, District Attorney Richard Gammick said it was far to
early to comment on whether his office might seek the death penalty
Poehlman said Higgs, who slit his wrists at the couple's other
home in Las Vegas a day before Augustine's funeral, was under a
suicide watch in Virginia.