Pathologists Disagree in Higgs Trial

The prosecution had only five witnesses left to testify in the Chaz Higgs trial on Friday. Those included a personal physician, a forensic pathologist, and a co-worker of Higgs.

Dr. Jerry Jones saw Kathy Augustine a year ago her annual OB/GYN exam. She says Augustine was in good health and everything was normal. And during cross-examination, Dr. Jones said Augustine had visited a cardiologist twelve years ago, and was diagnosed with micro-valve pro lapse. Because Jones is an OBGYN, he said his understanding of Augustine’s heart problems were limited. But he did acknowledge he did have some personnel experience with heart murmur.

Higgs’ co-worker Tina Carsone was the next witness. She is a manager at South Meadows Hospital. She says she hired Chaz Higgs to work in the emergency room, and says Higgs frequently talked with her about his marital problems with Augustine.

Dr. Ellen Clark, the forensic pathologist in charge of Augustine's autopsy, testified she saw bruising on Augustine's rear, which said she was 50 percent sure was a needle puncher.

That falls in line with the prosecution's contention, Higgs injected her with a paralyzing agent.

Clark says she noticed Augustine had uniform heart damage on a cellular level, which could have been caused by lack of oxygen.

She gave no cause of death at the completion of her July autopsy; that would come in the fall with the arrival of FBI toxicology results to her office.

The defense for Higgs asked this from Clark: barring those FBI findings of succynolcholine, what would she rule as a cause of death? She said it would be stress-cardiomyopathy with unknown ideology.

The defense says Augustine was under stress because of her impeachment, being shunned by the Republican party, and running a campaign for State Treasurer.

One more witness took the stand before court adjourned on Friday afternoon. Katherine Almaraz was another supervisor of Chaz Higgs at South Meadows Hospital. She says he was an excellent critical care nurse, but during the six months before Augustine’s death he seemed depressed and stressed out.

She believed it was because of his marriage to Kathy Augustine. She also says he talked of Augustine disparagingly, and during their working time together she testified he made this stunning statement:
“He said to me, I actually remember it because it was so vivid,” Almaraz said. “ ‘If I didn't have a daughter in Las Vegas, I would kill my wife and throw her down a mineshaft.’ “

On cross-examination, Almaraz testified the comments were disturbing, but not enough for her to alert the hospital or call the police.

She did say she and another nurse encouraged Higgs to seek counseling. Almaraz says Augustine would frequently show up to the emergency room, demand Higgs' paycheck, threaten workers and get into arguments with Higgs during his shift out in the parking lot.

Stay with KOLO 8 News for continuing coverage on this case.

Terri Russell, KOLO 8 News