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Authors: Gary C. King

An almost perfect murder

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AN ALMOST PERFECT MURDER“Paramedics. Is this an emergency?” George Reade asked.“Hello. Yes, this is an emergency,” the male resident of the house, forty-two-year-old Chaz Higgs, calmly replied.“What’s the address?” Reade asked.Higgs answered, “It’s in the Meadows housing development. Something’s wrong with my wife. She’s not breathing. I don’t know what happened to her.”“She’s not breathing at all?”“No. Not breathing at all. I’m a critical care nurse and I’ve already started doing CPR, but I need some help,” Higgs replied.Having dealt with thousands of emergency telephone calls in his five years in the business, Reade knew that characteristically there would be breaks or pauses in the telephone communication between the caller and the 911 operator when a caller was actually giving CPR to the stricken person who’s awaiting help. The caller typically wouldn’t be able to talk with the 911 operator between giving chest compressions and giving breaths, which appeared to be absent in this case. To Reade, it just hadn’t sounded like Higgs was administering CPR. Reade also noticed that there seemed to be a lack of urgency in Higgs’s voice. He had seemed a bit too calm to have a relative not breathing. Reade also noted that it had not been his experience to have a loved one in an emergency situation taking the time to give specific directions to their house to the 911 operator. In fact, as best as he could recall, this was a first in that regard.Also by Gary C. King:Love, Lies, and Murder Driven to Kill Savage Vengeance Web of Deceit Blood Lust: Portrait of a Serial Sex Killer Blind Rage An Early Grave The Texas 7 Murder in Hollywood Angels of Death Stolen in the NightAN ALMOST PERFECT MURDERGARY C. KINGPINNACLE BOOKSKensington Publishing Corp.http://www.kensingtonbooks.comAll copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.Table of ContentsAN ALMOST PERFECT MURDERAlso by Gary C. King:Title PageDedicationPraisePrefacePart I-The InvestigationChapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5Chapter 6Chapter 7Chapter 8Chapter 9Chapter 10Chapter 11Chapter 12Chapter 13Chapter 14Chapter 15Chapter 16Chapter 17Chapter 18Chapter 19Chapter 20Part II-The TrialChapter 21Chapter 22Chapter 23Chapter 24Chapter 25Chapter 26Chapter 27Chapter 28Chapter 29Chapter 30Chapter 31Chapter 32Chapter 33Chapter 34Chapter 35Chapter 36Copyright PageFor my brother, Donald R. MoodyWhy, I can smile, and murder whiles I smile.—William Shakespeare,Henry VI,Part 3, Act 3, Scene 2 Poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison.The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy.—Paracelsus, 1493–1541Prefacepoi·son(poi’zen), n. 1. a substance with an inherent property that tends to destroy life or impair health.—The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition, Unabridged Poison, in one toxic form or another—as well as murder by poisoning—has been around for a very long time. Until the advent of modern toxicological methods of investigation, especially when that investigation’s purpose is to determine the means behind the sudden and unexplained death of an otherwise healthy human being, murder by poisoning was once the preferred method to do away with someone, particularly if the murderer felt that he or she could get away with it. After all, in the past, poisoning had been the easiest way to murder someone. It was popular in England in the nineteenth century, because murder by poisoning was so difficult to prove in a court of law. Thanks largely to modern forensic technology, murdering someone by poisoning isn’t nearly as popular today as it was one-hundred-fifty years ago. Nonetheless, people occasionally still believe they can get away with such a murder, as the story that you are about to read will show.The roots of causing the death of another by poisoning date much further back in history, to the time when tribal hunters and gatherers discovered that ingesting certain plants that they had collected for food caused them to die instead of nourishing their bodies. At some point, these early inhabitants of planet Earth realized that poisoning might be an ideal way to get rid of their enemies without, more often than not, arousing too much suspicion. Evidence of murder by poisoning can easily be traced back to the Roman Empire during the time of Christ, but there is also considerable evidence that poisoning was recognized and used as a method to murder by much earlier civilizations, i.e., the Egyptians, Greeks, Indians, Chinese, and Sumerians, which all used poison as a method to kill. In those earlier times, it was often used as a method of suicide as well.For example, before making the decision to use an asp, which is a small Egyptian cobra, to take her own life, Cleopatra was known to have made the most of her slaves and prisoners to test out a variety of different deadly concoctions, such as belladonna, henbane, and an early form of strychnine, which was known asStrychnos nux-vomica.None of them pleased her, however. The first two, while acting fairly fast once ingested, proved to cause a much too painful and agonizing death, and the latter displeased her because it caused the victim to have convulsions that resulted in often hideous facial distortions at the time of death. Of course, that just wouldn’t do for the beautiful Cleopatra. It wasn’t until she experimented with the asp’s bite, the venom of which brought about a swift, if not tranquil, death, that she felt satisfied that she had found a preferred method to bring about death.Fast-forward several centuries to fifteenth-century Rome, and the Borgias could be found poisoning anyone who had offended them, or merely because they disliked a certain individual. The Borgias, however, weren’t alone in practicing what had become somewhat of an art, albeit a deadly one. Many a head of a European royal family utilized poison to kill his enemies, perceived or real. The process was quite simple. Throw a large party, invite the intended victim(s), and place the deadly material in the victim’s food or drink, and voila—death followed a short time later, with no one the wiser.Catherine de Médicis, the homely princess from Italy, was among the worst of the European royalty to rely upon the deadliness of poisons to achieve her goals: getting rid of those who stood in her way. Shortly after she arrived in France to marry Henry Deux, people began falling sick from mysterious illnesses, and they did not recover. Among her more well-known victims was the Dauphin François, who made the mistake of asking for a glass of water following a tennis match. The reason for his death had nothing to do with the tennis game that he had just played. He was killed because he stood in the way of Henry, the second son of King Francis I, being able to ascend to the throne. With poor François out of the way, Henry, along with his dauphine, Catherine, had suddenly become heir to the throne. She was also remembered for poisoning the Cardinal of Lorraine, whom she had considered an enemy. The cardinal mysteriously took ill and died after handling gold coins that may have been treated with nicotine, the source of which had reportedly been Catherine de Médicis. Nicotine had recently been discovered in the New World, and may have made it into Catherine’s hands by then.By the time the Victorian era came into being, poisons such as arsenic and strychnine were particularly popular, primarily because they were so easy to obtain and could be used with relative ease in secrecy. For a time, murder by poisoning had become so commonplace, particularly with the rise in popularity of life insurance policies, that poisoning someone for financial gain seemed almost fashionable. In France, for example, arsenic was eventually referred to as “inheritance powder.” Poisoning soon became the stuff of popular mystery fiction, which undoubtedly contributed, even in some small way, to the use of poison as a means to get rid of someone during that period, and later.During the Victorian era, when the science of toxicology and its use in forensic investigations was still in its infancy, it was often difficult to obtain a conviction for someone charged with murder by poisoning. Arsenic, clearly a murderer’s favorite at that time, was readily available at the local chemist’s shop or hardware store. Many people kept it on hand to kill rats, which had long been a problem in jolly old England, making it little wonder that it would be used on unwanted people, too. Toxicology tests at the time were unreliable, and the findings of scientists of that time period were often disputed. As a result, many people often got away with murder.Seeing the need to be able to detect the presence of arsenic in the human body, chemist James Marsh set out to devise a scientific test that would serve as an investigative tool during a time when murder by arsenic poisoning had become almost an epidemic in England. White arsenic trioxide powder was odorless, and it could easily be mixed with food or drink for the intended victim to ingest and later fall ill with symptoms similar to cholera, plus it was virtually undetectable in the body. It was during the early 1830s, at a time when chemical analysis could easily detect most mineral compounds, but lacked severely in scientific ability to detect organic poisons in the human body, that Marsh’s work made its way to the forefront with regard to the budding field of forensic toxicology.Without going through all of the scientific details here, suffice it to say that Marsh, combining the experimental work of several of his predecessors with his own, devised a standard test to detect arsenic by mixing the suspect fluid with sulfuric acid and passing it through a u-shaped tube. Even if only minute traces of arsenic were present, the procedure would create arsine gas, which, when ignited, would decay into arsenic and hydrogen. By 1836, with the utilization of Marsh’s test, it became increasingly more difficult to get away with committing murder using arsenic.One of the more famous cases that involved arsenic as the suspected poison was that of Dr. Harvey Crippen, a homeopathic doctor who, although married, was having an affair with his secretary, Ethel Le Neve. Dr. Crippen’s wife, Cora, mysteriously disappeared around the end of January 1910. Soon afterward, Ethel Le Neve moved into Crippen’s house and basically took over Cora’s role, including wearing her clothing and jewelry. After suspicion had been aroused among those who knew Crippen, Scotland Yard began an investigation into his wife’s disappearance and questioned the good doctor. He explained that his wife had been cheating on him and had actually left with her lover and had gone to America, where, he said, she died. Fearing that he would be charged with his wife’s murder, Crippen fled England on a westbound ship with Cora disguised as his son. However, his freedom was short-lived. He was arrested in Canada after being recognized as a wanted man and was brought back to England, where he stood trial for his wife’s murder. According to the story, an investigator had discovered a small piece of human tissue buried in the coal cellar. When it was examined, it was found to contain the toxic compound hyoscine, which Crippen claimed he used in making his homeopathic medications. Even though many people to this day believe that Crippen was innocent of his wife’s murder, he was nonetheless convicted and hanged late that same year.As the twentieth century came into being, it brought with it much new industry and many new toxic agents. Poisoning grew, it seemed, exponentially, as new toxic compounds were created, and, perhaps more important, because the populace in general had become more educated. They could now more easily seek out the information they needed through books, primarily, to do away with someone by poisoning them. Poison suddenly gained the interest of the military, both in Europe and the United States, and insidious compounds were developed that could now kill masses of people on the battlefield.Mustard gas, for example, was first used by the German Army in 1917, during World War I. Nearly odorless, mustard gas, also known as yperite, was placed into high-explosive shells and fired upon the advancing enemy. Its effects were devastating and horrible. Exposure to it caused the skin to blister, vomiting, blindness, and both internal and external bleeding. It also attacked the bronchial tubes of its victims, and literally stripped away the mucous membrane. Soldiers exposed to it died slow, horrible deaths, often taking up to four or five weeks to finally succumb to its effects. Naturally, mustard gas was not a substance to be used on a rich relative for the inheritance, but it is shown here to illustrate how human beings will seemingly stop at nothing in their efforts to refine the art of killing each other by ever-increasing insidious means.Returning to the more traditional, one-on-one type of poison that a person might consider using to get rid of a spouse, cyanide became somewhat popular toward the middle of the twentieth century. In addition to being used by real-life spies as a form of suicide during World War II, cyanide also became somewhat popular as a poison that, like arsenic, could easily be placed in the intended victim’s food or beverage. One documented case involved a father, bent on collecting his child’s life insurance money, who placed cyanide in his child’s sherbet. And, of course, who can forget the terror that the cyanide-laced Tylenol, which had been purchased from store shelves in Washington State, had caused?Of course, there have been a number of high-profile murder cases over the last forty or more years in which legitimate pharmaceutical medicines or drugs were used to kill the intended victims by killers who often had been either a medical professional or someone who was closely aligned to the medical profession. The drug in question in these instances is succinylcholine; for all intents and purposes, it is a pharmaceutical grade version of curare. In these instances, succinylcholine, a powerful muscle relaxer and paralytic drug, was used because its effects, when administered to kill, mimics a heart attack. It can be very difficult to detect if the crime lab doesn’t know it is looking for it.In 1967, Dr. Carl Coppolino, a New Jersey anesthesiologist, was convicted of murdering his wife, Carmela, by using succinylcholine. The good doctor, however, was acquitted of murder in another case in which he had been charged with killing another woman using the drug.In 1984, Genene Jones, the so-called “Killer Nurse,” was convicted of murdering a baby in Texas by injecting the infant with succinylcholine. The infant girl had been injected in the thigh and promptly developed apnea and died. At first, the baby’s death was attributed to sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, and buried. However, as additional evidence surfaced in that case, and the child’s family applied more pressure, the baby’s body was exhumed. Muscle tissue from the baby’s thigh, kidneys, and a portion of her liver were examined. After analysis from newly developed toxicological tests, it was determined that succinylcholine was present in the muscular tissue, as well as the organs that were examined.In 1991, Dr. William Sybers, who had been a medical examiner in Panama City, Florida, was accused of killing his wife with a lethal injection of the potent drug so that he could be with his mistress. Although convicted, his conviction was reversed and he later pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a deal with prosecutors. And who can forget Dr. Michael Swango, dubbed “Dr. Death”? He was suspected of killing as many as thirty-five to sixty people in various locations during the 1980s and 1990s, using succinylcholine that had been mixed with another drug. Swango ended up pleading guilty to three murders. There was also the case of Efren Saldivar, a California respiratory therapist who dubbed himself the “angel of death,” who, after his arrest in 2001, confessed to killing in excess of fifty people using a variety of different drugs, including succinylcholine.As a testimonial to the difficulty of determining that succinylcholine was used in any given case, as well as the difficulty of obtaining a conviction for those cases that actually go to trial, one can examine the 2002 case of Richard Williams, a former nurse at a veterans hospital, who was charged with ten counts of first-degree murder involving patients at the Truman Memorial Veterans Hospital in Columbia, Missouri, where he worked in 1992. In each of the cases in which Williams had been charged, the prosecution alleged that succinylcholine had been used. However, there were significant questions concerning a relatively new technology that its creators claimed could detect succinylcholine in a suspected victim’s tissue samples. These concerns were brought to light and resulted in the dismissal of the charges that had been brought against Williams.And the list goes on and on, bringing us to the case at hand, that of William Charles “Chaz” Higgs, a critical care nurse who had been accused of murdering his wife, Nevada state controller Kathy Augustine. Like many of Higgs’s predecessors in the medical profession who thought that they could get away with murder, Higgs likely thought that he could, too. It’s also possible that he has read about some of the aforementioned cases—there have been volumes written on them. Higgs’s case was similar to some of the other murder-by-poisoning cases in a few respects. As in some of the other cases in which the intended victim was a spouse, Higgs’s chosen victim was also his wife, and a toxic substance was used to bring about her death. However, unlike some of the other victims in the cases mentioned, Chaz Higgs’s wife was a strong, powerful woman in a position of authority and influence whose untimely death demanded, along with her family, that justice be served.Part IThe InvestigationChapter 1The city of Reno, Nevada, the seat of Washoe County, is pleasantly situated along the banks of the Truckee River, smack-dab in the middle of where Interstate 80, which runs east and west, and U.S. Highway 395, which runs north and south, intersect. Known as “the Biggest Little City in the World” since 1928, when the two-lane highway that enabled travelers to get across Donner Summit to California was paved, Reno has long been the redheaded stepchild of legalized gambling in the Silver State. Located in the northwestern corner of the state and barely a stone’s throw from scenic Lake Tahoe, with all its splendor and idyllic beauty, Reno is less than an hour’s drive from the recently relocatedandreopened world-famous Mustang Ranch. A longtime thorn in the side of at least one state legislator, the brothel is a business that nonetheless captures an attractive share of tourist money from men who enjoy cavorting with prostitutes, some of whom come to Reno for that purpose only. Reno is often viewed as being more peaceful and adorned with greater variations of scenic beauty than its glitzier asphalt jungle cousin, Las Vegas, a day’s drive to the south. Sometimes viewed as a miniature version of Las Vegas because it shares many of the same amenities as its cousin, such as resort hotels, casinos, buffets, and wedding chapels, Reno is also a major warehouse and distribution center for the region. Named in honor of Major General Jesse L. Reno, a Union officer who was killed during the Civil War, the city has grown steadily since the arrival of the railroad in 1868—the same year that it was founded—to become the state’s third-largest city, behind Las Vegas and Henderson, with a population greater than 210,000.Situated some 4,400 feet above sea level in a high desert valley, Reno is conveniently located twenty-six miles from the state capital, Carson City, which is also home to the U.S. Mint. Many of the state’s legislators and other elected officials, as well as state employees, make their home in Reno and commute to the state capital. Its growing economy in recent years has resulted in considerable new home construction throughout the metro area, and the so-called progress has brought with it a sizeable increase in its real estate prices. Year-round recreational activities, such as fishing, water and snow skiing, swimming, and parasailing, to name a few, abound, and over time, Reno has expanded upon its cultural base in an attempt to provide outlets besides gambling for its residents. There is an art museum there, a pops orchestra, a botanical garden and arboretum, and Reno is home to the Nevada Shakespeare Company. Unfortunately, Reno is also known as the setting for one of the most diabolical and cold-blooded, not to mention cruel, murders the state has ever seen.  A light summer breeze blew gently through the Meadows subdivision, a few miles southeast of Reno, less than an hour after sunrise on Saturday, July 8, 2006. At a pleasant 64 degrees, it was partly cloudy that morning, but there was no chance of rain. With an average of only 4.5 inches of precipitation annually, it doesn’t rain much, ever. From the right vantage point, portions of the Sierra Nevada mountain range could be seen jutting above the horizon to the west. Birds had come to life and could be heard chirping their early-morning music throughout this relatively new, somewhat upscale community, where many young and middle-aged professionals and their families made their home. The houses were mostly of the cookie-cutter variety that developers seemed so keen on exporting in recent years from Southern California to their neighbors in nearby states. The original purchase price tag ran about $300,000. The price of the same house in another major West Coast city, such as San Francisco or Los Angeles, would easily cost twice that much. The location was close to the two major freeways that run through Reno, making it an ideal location for those who work in the city or commute to the state capital despite the bumper-to-bumper traffic during rush hour. The houses, typically close to one another, were separated by a mix of well-placed green grass and desert landscaping or, in some cases, an attractive mix of both. The close proximity of the dwellings also made it easier for neighbors to know each other’s business, but on the upside, it also made it easier for residents to look out for one another.Otter Way, located just off South Meadows Parkway and U.S. Highway 395, was a typically quiet street within the Meadows subdivision. Most of the single-family houses on Otter Way were built in 1999, and the community sold out before the houses were even completed, primarily because the location was ideal for those who wanted to enjoy suburban living. Most of the people who live in this community seem to fit into it well; they mesh comfortably with each other, for the most part. One couple who lived on Otter Way, however, didn’t quite fit the mold. One neighbor dispassionately characterized them as somewhat of an odd couple, while others chose to keep their thoughts and opinions about their neighbors to themselves. No matter what people thought of that couple, this day in early July would be one that the residents of the Meadows subdivision would not easily forget.George Reade, a communications supervisor for the Regional Emergency Medical Services Authority (REMSA), was on duty at 6:43A.M.when the call about a person not breathing was received through Reno’s 911 emergency communications system. Reade’s job consisted of overseeing the day-to-day operations of the communications center, and one of his duties included taking some of the emergency telephone calls. Reade, who had been in the supervisory role for two years, had also worked as a communications specialist for that company for three years. On any given day, Reade might take a call involving an auto accident, a cardiac arrest, or even an occasional violent crime. It wasn’t unusual for him to work through thirty to fifty calls per day. Even though the phone lines had been busy most of the night, none of the morning or previous evening’s calls could top the one Reade took at 6:43A.M.“Paramedics. Is this an emergency?” Reade asked.“Hello. Yes, this is an emergency,” the male resident of the house, forty-two-year-old Chaz Higgs, calmly replied.“What’s the address?” Reade asked.Higgs answered, “It’s in the Meadows housing development. Something’s wrong with my wife. She’s not breathing. I don’t know what happened to her.”“She’s not breathing at all?”“No. Not breathing at all. I’m a critical care nurse and I’ve already started doing CPR, but I need some help,” Higgs replied.“Okay. We’re on the way. What’s the phone number that you’re calling from?”Higgs gave him the phone number.“And you’re with her right now?”“Yes.”“And you’re currently doing CPR?”“Yes.”“You’re over by Ripple Way?”“Yeah. There’s more than one of the same street name. So, if you come into the housing development, immediately turn right and the road will veer around to the left, and we’re on the third court on the right. There’s a dark blue Dodge Dakota pickup in the driveway. If I hear you coming, I’ll come outside.”Reade instructed Higgs to put the phone down without breaking the connection just in case he needed to provide additional information or to ask for more specific help during the interim before paramedics could get there. Higgs indicated that he would continue administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until the paramedics arrived.Having dealt with thousands of emergency telephone calls in his five years in the business, Reade knew that characteristically there would be breaks or pauses in the telephone communication between the caller and the 911 operator when a caller was actually giving CPR to the stricken person who’s awaiting help. The caller typically wouldn’t be able to talk with the 911 operator between giving chest compressions and giving breaths, which would thus account for the characteristic breaks in the conversation, which appeared to be absent in this case. To Reade, it just hadn’t sounded like Higgs was administering CPR. Reade also noticed that there seemed to be a lack of urgency in Higgs’s voice. He had seemed a bit too calm to have a relative not breathing. Reade also noted that it had not been his experience to have a loved one in an emergency situation taking the time to give specific directions to their house to the 911 operator. In fact, as best as he could recall, this was a first in that regard.Seven minutes later, at 6:50A.M., the first shrieks of the REMSA vehicle’s siren broke the early-morning stillness on Otter Way. Benjamin Pratt, employed as a firefighter and paramedic for the Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District, also worked for REMSA on a part-time basis and was driving unit 310 that morning. His training as a paramedic consisted of nine months of course work at an accredited institution, 180 hours of clinical time in the ambulance, and 280 hours of clinical time in the hospital working with nurses and doctors. Accompanied by his partner, Manny Fuentes, the paramedics knew that they were responding to a lights-and-siren cardiac arrest call, a Code 3. When they arrived on Otter Way, Pratt radioed Reade with his “310 on scene” message. A man, whom they had seen from a distance of nearly two streets away, was out in front of the house, waving them onto the curb sidewalk area.The Reno Fire Department (RFD) responded as well and was right behind Pratt and Fuentes when they arrived. Units from the Reno Police Department (RPD) arrived moments later. The first police unit was on the scene at 6:52A.M.They had by now determined that they were rushing to the home that Kathy Marie Augustine, fifty, Nevada state controller, an elected official, shared with her husband. Neighbors, some of whom were awakened by all of the noise and activity, came outside of their homes to try and see what all the fuss was about.When Pratt and Fuentes climbed out of their vehicle, they were followed into the house by four firefighters from the other vehicle. The fire department typically comes along on calls of this nature to assist breaking in the door if no one answers, to perform general “housekeeping,” like cleaning up after the paramedics, who don’t always have the time to clean up because of having to rush the injured or gravely ill person off to a hospital, or to simply help provide manpower in moving the patient when assistance is needed.Higgs calmly told them that his wife was in the back room. He ushered them through the living area, past the kitchen, and led them through the 1,100-square-foot house to its only bedroom, where Kathy lay motionless on the couple’s queen-size bed. The REMSA paramedics immediately initiated efforts to resuscitate the lifeless, middle-aged woman.Unable to find a pulse, the paramedics carefully removed her from the bed and placed her on the floor, where they continued CPR efforts. For CPR to be most effective, the person needs to be placed on a hard, stable surface; this way, when a paramedic is doing chest compressions, the blood circulates more effectively. The bed, they knew, would be much too soft to attain the results they desired. Next they inserted an oropharyngeal ring, a device that looks like a curved piece of plastic, into Kathy’s mouth and underneath her tongue. Its purpose is to pull the tongue out of the way to open up the airway as much as possible before inserting a piece of plastic tubing through the vocal cords, a process known as intubation, to provide a mechanism by which a patient can breathe. As they continued with the CPR, one of the paramedics started an IV and began administering a variety of medications that included epinephrine and atropine because Kathy was still a systole, a flatliner. Their effort, of course, was to get Kathy’s heart beating again. Eventually, following a second round of medications, they detected a weak pulse and each suddenly felt a glimmer of hope that she might survive. Forcing Kathy to breathe artificially, the paramedics loaded her into a waiting ambulance. By 7:09A.M., Pratt and Fuentes, upbeat and excited because they had literally brought someone back from the dead, were rushing Kathy Augustine, who was still unconscious, to the South Meadows branch of the Washoe Medical Center, where she bypassed the hospital’s triage system and was admitted almost immediately through the emergency room (ER). They had managed to keep her heart beating while en route to the hospital.Upon their arrival at Kathy Augustine’s home minutes earlier, and amid all of the chaos of the paramedics working feverishly to try and save Kathy’s life, RPD officers Steve Mussell and Joe Proffitt had managed to speak to Higgs about the situation. Higgs had been standing outside the front door of the house while paramedics had been working to revive his wife inside the home, which many people who were involved in the case later admitted had been unusual. Normally, the spouse or other close family members remain inside, close to the scene of activity, out of concern for their loved one, where they can see what is going on, and to be available to answer any questions that the emergency workers might need to ask. That hadn’t been the case with Higgs, however, but his unusual behavior hadn’t been noted until later. Officers Mussell and Proffitt weren’t there to make any judgments at that point, but were there to collect information for later assessment as to its value. While it would be difficult to characterize their exchanges with Higgs as a formal interview, they did obtain a few details of the time period that led up to Higgs placing the 911 call. The information that they obtained at this point was sketchy at best.In response to their questions, Higgs explained to Mussell and Proffitt that he had been alone in the house with his wife since the prior evening. He claimed that he had awakened early that morning and had left Kathy sleeping in their bed. He explained that when he returned to their bedroom a short time later, he discovered that his wife had stopped breathing. He suggested to the two officers that his wife had a heart condition that might have caused her to stop breathing. He didn’t go into detail about her condition at that time, but later said that his wife had been complaining recently of a stomachache and heartburn.
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