- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2006

Critical care nurse William Charles Higgs told co-workers he knew how to commit the perfect murder just before his wife, Nevada State Controller Kathy Augustine, died of what initially was called a heart attack.

Yesterday, during a court hearing in Hampton, Va., the man who met his wife while caring for her dying husband in 2003 waived extradition to face first-degree murder charges in Nevada.

Arrested Friday by FBI agents in Hampton, where he had been staying with relatives, Mr. Higgs is suspected of killing Mrs. Augustine with an injection of a powerful muscle relaxant. Handcuffed and wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, Mr. Higgs said nothing during the brief hearing.

Police reports said Mrs. Augustine, 50, was found unconscious on July 8 and was rushed to a hospital, but died three days later. She never regained consciousness.

Mr. Higgs, 42, a nurse at Carson-Tahoe Regional Medical Center, told authorities he found his wife unconscious in bed at their home in Reno and called police, saying she had suffered a heart attack. He told police she was suffering from extreme stress from an ongoing campaign for state treasurer, where she faced fundraising problems and opposition from her own party.

But Reno Police Deputy Chief Jim Johns later confirmed that a preliminary autopsy found no evidence of heart disease that would trigger an attack and a complete autopsy was ordered. Police think Mrs. Augustine was injected with succinylcholine, a muscle relaxant often used in hospitals to temporarily paralyze a patient so a breathing tube can be inserted into the windpipe.

According to a police report, medical examiners found a needle mark on Mrs. Augustine’s buttocks that could not be explained.

The report also said Mr. Higgs told co-workers he was having marital problems and was planning on ending his marriage. Investigators said Mr. Higgs also told co-workers just before his wife’s death that if he intended to kill someone he would use a paralyzing drug such as succinylcholine because it could not be detected after death.

Mr. Higgs, known to his family and friends as “Chaz,” attempted to kill himself at the couple’s Las Vegas home by slashing his wrists three days after his wife died. He was treated and later released from a Las Vegas hospital. He did not attend his wife’s funeral, held a day after his release from the hospital.

After the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va., confirmed finding succinylcholine in Mrs. Augustine’s urine, Reno police obtained an arrest warrant. FBI agents staked out the Hampton house where Mr. Higgs had been visiting relatives and arrested him Friday as he pulled into the driveway.

Mr. Higgs met Mrs. Augustine when he was caring for her first husband of 17 years, Charles Francis Augustine, 63, who died in 2003. They married six months after the funeral. Investigators yesterday said they will exhume Mr. Augustine’s body to look for traces of the same drug that authorities said killed Mrs. Augustine.

Mrs. Augustine served in the Nevada Assembly and Senate until her 1998 election as the state’s first female controller. In September 2004, she admitted violating state ethics laws during her 2002 re-election campaign and was fined $15,000 by the state Ethics Commission. She was impeached by the state Assembly and convicted and censured at a state Senate trial, but she was allowed to resume her office.

She announced her candidacy for state treasurer in January. Despite her death in July, her name remained on the ballot in the August primary, where she received 18 percent of the vote.

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