Brother asks public for help in probe of controller’s death |

Brother asks public for help in probe of controller’s death

Scott Sonner

RENO (AP) – The brother of the late state Controller Kathy Augustine appealed to the public Tuesday to come forward with any information that may help answer questions about her death and her husband’s attempted suicide.

“There have been many rumors and suspicions raised about the circumstances of Kathy’s death,” Philip Alfano told reporters at a news conference.

“While our family hopes and prays she died of natural causes, we are extremely grateful an investigation has been launched,” he said.

“Our family requests that anyone with any information that could assist investigators with this task, please come forward.”

Alfano, 41, a high school principal from Turlock, Calif., said on Monday he was suspicious about the cause of his sister’s death.

Investigators are focusing on Augustine’s activities before a 911 call from her husband, Chaz Higgs, on July 8, who said he found her unconscious in the bedroom of their Reno home. Augustine, 50, died four days later without regaining consciousness.

Higgs, 42, a critical care nurse, said Augustine suffered a massive heart attack, although Reno Police Deputy Chief Jim Johns has said preliminary “indications” showed no evidence of long-term heart disease. Greg Augustine, a stepson, said family members were told the same thing.

Higgs slashed his wrists in an apparent suicide attempt at the couple’s home in Las Vegas last Friday.

Higgs said at the time of her death his wife, a former flight attendant who was a divisive public figure while serving in the Legislature and as state controller, suffered a heart attack brought on by the stress of an uphill campaign for treasurer.

Augustine first was elected to office in 1992 as a Republican state assemblywoman and later was elected to the state Senate. She became state controller in 1999.

Allegations of official misconduct arose in 2003. She was impeached by the Assembly and convicted by the Senate for using state equipment on her 2002 campaign. She was censured but not removed from office.

Alfano said Tuesday the family has been searching for “some measure of good in all of the senselessness.” He said the family has grown stronger and more appreciative of one another since her death.

“In addition, the people of Nevada who did not know Kathy are also hearing and reading about the Kathy Augustine we all knew – the fun-loving, warm and caring person we were fortunate to share our lives with,” he said.

“Yes, Kathy could be demanding, tough and outspoken. These are the characteristics of any great leader,” he said.

“But Kathy was not the false caricature created by a handful of disgruntled employees and opportunists during the impeachment trial and the weeks leading up to it,” said Alfano, who declined to take any questions after reading a statement to reporters.

Reno Police spokesman Steve Frady said the FBI’s lab in Quantico, Va., was handling the autopsy and the results were not expected before next week.

Greg Augustine said Monday that he has “many lingering questions” but is confident “the truth will be exposed” by police.

In 2003, his father, Charles, who was Augustine’s second husband, died in the hospital at age 63 from complications related to a stroke, according to a death certificate.

Higgs was Charles Augustine’s nurse. He and Augustine reportedly married in Honolulu three weeks after the death.

Greg Augustine said if his stepmother’s toxicology results “don’t look good,” his father’s body should be exhumed. He has said he didn’t trust Higgs.

Police wouldn’t comment on details of a note left by Higgs and discovered Friday by Augustine’s daughter, Dallas Augustine. “It was a suicide note. It wasn’t a confession,” the daughter said.

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