Kathy Augustine

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Kathy Augustine
Nevada State Controller
In office
Governor Kenny Guinn
Preceded by Darrell Daines
Succeeded by Steve Martin
Member of the Nevada State Senate, 7th District
In office
Preceded by Lori Lipman Brown
Succeeded by Terry John Care
Member of the Nevada Assembly
In office
Preceded by John L. Norton
Succeeded by Genie Ohrenshall
Personal details
Born (1956-05-29)May 29, 1956
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died July 11, 2006(2006-07-11) (aged 50)
Reno, Nevada, U.S.
Resting place

Davis Memorial Park

Las Vegas, Nevada
Political party Republican
Alma mater

Occidental College

California State University, Long Beach
Profession Politician

Kathy Marie Alfano Augustine (May 29, 1956 – July 11, 2006) was a U.S. Republican Party politician from Nevada. She served in the Nevada Assembly (1993–1995) and in the Nevada Senate (1995–1999). She was Nevada's first female State Controller, serving from 1999 until she was murdered in 2006.[1][2]

Early life

Augustine was born as Kathy Marie Alfano in Los Angeles, California, and was an Italian-American.[3] Her educational background included a bachelor's degree in political science from Occidental College, and a Master of Public Administration degree from California State University, Long Beach. While in college, she worked in Washington, D.C., as a Congressional intern. Prior to entering politics, she worked for Delta Air Lines as a flight scheduler for twelve years, and briefly as a flight attendant, based out of Las Vegas, Nevada, after 1988.[4]

Following two short-lived marriages, both ending in divorce, one of which produced her daughter, Dallas, who committed suicide after murdering her long-time partner, Jessie McCaskill, in August, 2012,[5] she married Delta Air Lines pilot Charles Augustine. They were married for 17 years until his death from complications of a stroke on August 19, 2003. She had three stepchildren from her marriage to Augustine. Shortly after Charles Augustine's death, she married William Charles "Chaz" Higgs on September 19, 2003, a critical care nurse who had been involved in Charles Augustine's care.[6]

Political career

From 1993 to 1995, she served one term in the Nevada Assembly. During the 1992 campaign, she was criticized for a campaign advertisement featuring a bad photograph of her African-American opponent (the same photograph, however, was used by her opponent in her own campaign literature). Above descriptions of the two candidates' positions on various issues was a caption reading "There is a real difference." She served in the Nevada Senate from 1995 to 1999. In the 1994 state senate election, she defeated incumbent Lori Lipman Brown, and once again drew controversy for a campaign advertisement in which she accused Lipman Brown of being against prayer and opposing the Pledge of Allegiance. In fact, Lipman Brown, who is ethnically Jewish (though an atheist theologically),[7] declined to participate in a prayer led by a Christian minister, and the accusation regarding Lipman Brown's opposition to the pledge was false. In 1998, Augustine was elected as the state's first female State Controller, serving in that post until her death. In January 2004, White House officials advised her that she was a finalist to become Treasurer of the United States, however Anna Escobedo Cabral was subsequently nominated and confirmed as Treasurer.

Impeachment and censure

In September 2004, Augustine admitted violating state ethics laws during her 2002 re-election campaign, and was fined a record $15,000 by the state Ethics Commission for using state personnel and equipment for her personal re-election campaign. As a result of the investigation, she was impeached by the state assembly in November of the same year, and temporarily relinquished office.[8] She was the first Nevada state official to be impeached. Following a week-long trial in the Nevada State Senate, she was convicted on one charge, but acquitted on three others.[9] Augustine was censured, but allowed to resume office.

2006 State Treasurer race

Unable to seek a third term as State Controller, in January 2006, Augustine announced her candidacy for Nevada State Treasurer, despite opposition from state Republican Party leaders stemming from her impeachment. In May 2006, the party voted to deny her party support in the State Treasurer race. Despite her death, her name remained on the ballot for the August 15 primary, and she received 18.64% of the vote.[10]

Murder and subsequent death investigation

On July 8, 2006, Augustine was found unconscious in her Reno, Nevada, home, and died three days later without regaining consciousness.[11][12] Although early reports stated that the cause of death was a massive heart attack, police soon came to suspect foul play.[13]

On July 14, 2006, Augustine's husband, Chaz Higgs, attempted suicide by slitting his wrists in the couple's Las Vegas home.[14] Higgs was arrested in Hampton, Virginia, on September 29, 2006, and charged with first degree murder in her death after an FBI toxicology test found a paralyzing drug, succinylcholine, in Augustine's system.[13] Higgs, a critical care nurse, allegedly made suspicious remarks to a co-worker about how to kill someone undetectably using succinylcholine.[11][14] He was extradited back to Nevada.[11] The warrant and test results were kept secret until Higgs's arrest.[12]

Higgs was convicted of murder by a Reno, Nevada, jury on June 29, 2007.[14] He was sentenced to life in prison, with a chance of parole after 20 years.[14] He was placed on suicide watch after twice trying to kill himself while in custody.[14] He is housed in the High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs, Nevada.[15] In May 2009, the Nevada Supreme Court upheld Higgs' murder conviction in a majority decision.[15]

Following Augustine's death, Steve Martin, an accountant and Republican candidate in the 2006 State Controller race, was appointed by Governor Kenny Guinn to succeed her.[16]


The Forensic Files Season 13: Episode 4 "Political Thriller" (10 October 2008) is about this case.[17][18]


  1. ^ Kathy Augustine Biography, Controller's Office.
  2. ^ "Nevada State Controller Kathy Augustine dies". News 3 Las Vegas. KVBC. July 12, 2006. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved July 16, 2006. 
  3. ^ "State Controller Named Italian-American of the Year" (PDF). Press Release 00403. Controller's Office, State of Nevada. June 10, 2003. Archived from the original (pdf) on November 10, 2005. Retrieved July 14, 2006. 
  4. ^ MSNBC "A Shot in the Dark" documentary transcript on Augustine's Death
  5. ^ Daughter of lawmaker killed in 2006 found dead in apparent murder-suicide (Las Vegas Review-Journal article)
  6. ^ "Chaz Higgs, Kathy Augustine's husband, attempts suicide". News 3 Las Vegas. KVBC. July 14, 2006. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved July 14, 2006. 
  7. ^ Secular Coalition for America Staff, Secular Coalition for America. Archived January 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ http://www.leg.state.nv.us/21stspecial/impeachment%20articles.htm
  9. ^ http://leg.state.nv.us/Session/21st2004Special/info.cfm
  10. ^ "Election Summary". Nevada Secretary of State. August 16, 2006. Archived from the original on August 29, 2006. Retrieved August 16, 2006. 
  11. ^ a b c Friess, Steve (3 October 2006). "Police Investigate '03 Death After Charge Against Nurse". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 September 2017. 
  12. ^ a b Sonner, Scott (30 September 2006). "Nev. Official's Husband Charged in Death". The Washington Post. Retrieved 6 September 2017. 
  13. ^ a b Ritter, Ken (2 May 2007). "Man cleared in death of Nevada official, awaits trial in second case". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 6 September 2017. 
  14. ^ a b c d e Martelle, Scott (30 June 2007). "Nevada official's widower guilty". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 September 2017. 
  15. ^ a b Ryan, Cy (15 January 2010). "Court issues full opinion in Kathy Augustine murder". Las Vegas Sun. Retrieved 6 September 2017. 
  16. ^ "Former NV controller to run for treasurer". The San Diego Union-Tribune. 8 January 2010. Retrieved 6 September 2017. 
  17. ^ ""Forensic Files" Political Thriller (TV Episode 2008)". IMDb.com. 10 October 2008. Retrieved 6 September 2017. 
  18. ^ "Forensic Files Episode List - Forensic Files". Forensic Files. Retrieved 6 September 2017. 

Further reading

  • "Augustine impeached". Las Vegas Review-Journal. November 12, 2004. Archived from the original on November 13, 2004. Retrieved November 12, 2004. 
  • "Kathy Augustine Biography". Controllers Office, State of Nevada. Archived from the original on March 6, 2005. Retrieved July 16, 2006. 
  • "The life and politics of Kathy Augustine". Reno Gazette-Journal. July 12, 2006. Retrieved July 12, 2006. [permanent dead link]
  • Coolican, J. Patrick (July 13, 2006). "Augustine lived up to her reputation". Las Vegas Sun article. Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved July 13, 2006. 
  • Press Releases, Controller's Office, States of Nevada. Retrieved on July 14, 2006. NB: Augustine's press releases while in office.
  • Husband convicted of murder Retrieved June 29, 2007.[dead link]
  • Kathy Augustine at Find a Grave
  • "Power, Passion, and Poison" - 48 Hours Mystery story about Augustine's death (December 20, 2008)
Political offices
Preceded by
Darrel Daines
Nevada State Controller
Succeeded by
Steve Martin
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