Augustine Death

The lawyer for the man charged with killing state Controller Kathy Augustine is questioning evidence linking his client, Augustine's husband Chaz Higgs, with a paralytic and deadly drug found in her system.

Reno defense attorney Dave Houston said testing for succinylcholine typically requires tissue samples from the injection site and testing of the victim's organs.

In Augustine's case, Washoe County authorities filed charges after finding the drug in urine and blood samples taken from Augustine before she died.

Houston said the case hinges on a witness' statement that Higgs, a critical care nurse, spoke about succinylcholine as a perfect murder weapon because he said it was impossible to detect. A day later, Kathy Augustine was rushed to a hospital.

"The case seems to have been built based on a witness statement
from a single person as opposed to building the case on science,"
Houston said.

Washoe County Assistant District Attorney John Helzer said evidence clearly points to Higgs, 42, who was charged with murder in the July death of his 50-year-old wife.

Friends have said Augustine had been preparing to divorce Higgs.

"We have an excellent workup on the toxicology," Helzer said. "We weren't in a hurry, we took our time, and we filed these charges because we believe they are supported by the evidence."

Authorities say Higgs injected Augustine with a lethal dose of the drug at the couple's northern Nevada home. She died at a hospital three days later.

A needle mark was found on Augustine's buttock, and FBI tests
detected succinylcholine in her urine, prompting Higgs' arrest.

When Higgs was arrested in Virginia in September, authorities found literature on succinylcholine in his vehicle.

Las Vegas authorities also are investigating the death of Augustine's third husband, Charles Augustine, 63. Higgs was his critical care nurse in 2003 when Charles Augustine died while recovering from a stroke. No autopsy was performed. Three weeks after the death, Kathy Augustine married Higgs in Hawaii.

In October, the Clark County coroner's office exhumed Charles
Augustine's body. Toxicology tests could take months to complete.