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Slaying suspect is freed on bail

Chaz Higgs is accused of killing his wife, Nevada Controller Kathy Augustine.

March 27, 2007|From the Associated Press

RENO — Chaz Higgs was freed on bail Monday from the county jail where he has been held since September on charges that he killed his wife, Nevada Controller Kathy Augustine, with a paralyzing drug.

Higgs was quickly escorted to a waiting car by five deputies and his lawyer.

Augustine's family criticized Higgs' release, calling him a psychopath who should remain in jail.

Higgs, 42, an emergency-room nurse, is accused of poisoning Augustine with a fatal injection of succinylcholine, a drug used to temporarily paralyze a person before inserting a breathing tube.

"He's very happy to be free," his lawyer, David Houston, said outside the Washoe County Jail in Reno.

Wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, and carrying a plastic bag with what appeared to be his personal belongings, Higgs did not say much.

Asked what he planned to do first, he said, "Hug my mom."

He was reunited with his mother, Shirley Higgs, a short time later at his lawyer's office, Houston said.

"Upon arriving, we walked in and the first thing he did was hug his mom," Houston said.

After a brief discussion with his lawyer, he was "gone on his way to enjoy a bit of freedom that he hasn't enjoyed in many months," Houston said.

Higgs' mother and father, who are divorced, both put up their homes on the East Coast to cover his $250,000 bail. The properties, Houston said, "are worth in excess" of the bond requirement.

Houston and co-defense counsel Alan Baum of Woodland Hills said Higgs' mother was relocating to Reno from North Carolina to support her son pending his trial in June.

Washoe County District Judge Steven Kosach set bail on March 1, with provisions that Higgs remain in daily contact with his lawyers and not leave the state.

Higgs had been held without bail.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Tom Barb has said evidence clearly points to Higgs, and friends said Augustine had been preparing to divorce Higgs.

When Higgs was arrested in Virginia in September, authorities found literature on succinylcholine in his vehicle.

Higgs has pleaded not guilty to murder charges.

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