Kathy Augustine: Unusual Poison Makes Mystery of a Murder

Last week’s blog post presented the case of Barbara “Bloody Babs” Graham. California executed Graham and two men for murdering an elderly widow in 1953. This week, we look at Chaz Higgs and the murder of his wife, Nevada politician Kathy Augustine.

Kathy Augustine

Kathy Augustine was born into an Italian-American family in Los Angeles. After college, she worked as a flight scheduler for Delta Airlines and, briefly after 1988, as a flight attendant. She had two short marriages, both ending in divorce, before she married Delta Airlines pilot Charles Augustine in 1986.

Charles and Kathy Augustine (findagrave.com)
Charles and Kathy Augustine (findagrave.com)

Kathy Augustine in Politics

In 1992, Kathy entered politics (she had a master’s degree in public administration), running for the Nevada Assembly. She won despite criticism that some of her campaign literature had a racial slant (her opponent was African American). After completing one term in the Assembly, Kathy defeated incumbent Lori Lipman Brown for a seat in the Nevada Senate. This campaign also drew criticism for inaccurate claims made about Brown’s positions on issues.

Kathy Augustine
Kathy Augustine

In 1998, Kathy won election as Nevada’s first female state controller.

Kathy’s career suffered a setback when, in September 2004, she faced charges that she violated state ethics laws. The state Ethics Commission fined her $15,000 for using state personnel and equipment for her personal reelection campaign. The Nevada Assembly impeached her, ultimately convicting her on one charge but acquitting her on three others. The Assembly censured her, but she was allowed to stay in office.

Kathy Augustine and Chaz Higgs

In August 2003, Charles Augustine suffered a stroke and died on August 19. Charles “Chaz” Higgs was one of the critical care nurses caring for him in the hospital.

Three weeks after Charles’s death, Kathy Augustine and Chaz Higgs married.

Kathu Augustine and Chaz Higgs (Forensic Files)
Kathu Augustine and Chaz Higgs (Forensic Files)

The Murder of Kathy Augustine

On July 8, 2006, Kathy was found unconscious in her Reno home. She died three days later, on July 11, without regaining consciousness.

Early reports stated that Kathy’s cause of death was a heart attack. Police soon suspected foul play, however. For one thing, Chaz Higgs allegedly made suspicious remarks to a co-worker about how to kill someone undetectably. FBI forensic tests later found trace amounts of the paralyzing drug succinylcholine in Kathy’s system. Succinylcholine leaves the body very quickly and is often difficult to detect.

On July 14, Higgs attempted suicide by cutting his wrists in the couple’s Las Vegas home. He survived and remained free for two months until police arrested him in Hampton, Virginia, on September 29, 2006. He was extradited back to Nevada to stand trial for murder.


On June 29, 2007, a Reno jury convicted Chaz Higgs of murder. He was sentenced to life in prison with a chance for parole after twenty years. In May 2009, the Nevada Supreme Court upheld his conviction. Today (summer 2023), Chaz resides at the Northern Nevada Correctional Center in Carson City, Nevada.

Chaz Higgs prison mugshot (Nevada Department of Corrections)
Chaz Higgs prison mugshot (Nevada Department of Corrections)

You can read more about the Kathy Augustine murder in Gary C. King’s An Almost Perfect Murder.

The true crime television series Forensic Files featured the Augustine case in a 2008 episode titled Political Thriller.

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