Power, Passion And Poison
Political analyst Jon Ralston says that beneath Kathy's smiling demeanor was a ruthless politician. "I think people really, really despised Kathy Augustine because of the tactics she used," he says. "She really hit people below the belt. And she really used the most divisive wedge, personal, emotional, inflammatory issues to get ahead."
Case in point was her campaign against Dora Harris. Harris had been leading Kathy in a 1992 race for state assembly. "I was about 53 to 47 per cent ahead in the polls and that Saturday Kathy came out with a hit piece," Harris remembers.
"She ran a picture of Dora Harris, an African-American woman, next to her picture, clearly just saying, 'I'm the white women running. She's the black woman. Vote for me. It was seen by many, many people as very, very racist," explains Ralston.
"That was Kathy's style. She would do whatever she needed to do to get what she wanted," Harris says.
Kathy went on to beat Dora Harris by 700 votes. Kathy rode her "take no prisoners" style to the statewide office of controller in 1998. When she was re-elected, word spread that her star was on the rise at the national GOP.
"She was being looked at for a position in the U.S. Treasury," Vinnick remembers. "And I think there were some good ole' boys that didn't like that. That's when all the troubles in her life really, really started to happen. Politically."
She was hit by a political lightning bolt. "Some of her employees, two or three of them, went to the ethics commission and said, 'Our boss, Kathy Augustine, is making us do campaign work,'" Ralston explains.
Kathy became the first person in the history of Nevada politics to face impeachment for using her staff and state owned office equipment in her re-election campaign; Nevada's Republican leadership told Kathy that her political career was over.
Her impeachment ordeal went on for weeks. In the end, Kathy was found guilty only of using state-owned equipment in her campaign, but she was censured by the state legislature.
She refused to quit, and showed up on Ralston's television program to defend herself. Asked if she ever considered resigning, Kathy told Ralston, "When you know that what you did did not rise to level of impeachment, then it was a matter of staying there and fighting for something you truly believed in."
Kathy launched a politically explosive investigation into financial misdeeds within her own party, and then announced she would run for the powerful job of state treasurer; Republican party leaders were stunned by what they felt was her betrayal.
"I think they were flabbergasted. I think they were upset," Ralston says. "I think they didn't know exactly what to do because some thought, 'You know what? She might have a chance.'"
Some people wanted to frighten Kathy out of running, according to her brother Phil. "She did tell me that several people had warned her to be careful," he tells Roberts. "There were threats made to her."
"48 Hours" wanted to ask Chaz Higgs about all of this, but lead defense attorney Alan Baum told his client to watch what he said.
But Barbara Woollen had plenty to say. She was running for lieutenant governor in the Republican primary, when Kathy confided in her. "She told me that she had information that she thought I needed to know about. Involving political corruption," Woollen recalls. "Misappropriation of funds, slush funds."
She says Kathy knew that her investigation into corruption had put her in danger. "She said that a prominent Republican figure had thrown her against a wall. And said the following to her: 'What are you doing? You're going to f--- it all up. If you know what's good for you, you'll drop out of this race and go away. Otherwise, you better watch your back,'" Woollen says.
Defense attorney David Houston says Woollen's story was not the only one that police ignored. "They had a number of different threats that were reported to them," he says. "Serious threats against Kathy Augustine, and to her health and safety. And, they didn't even bother to pursue it."
But Reno detective Dave Jenkins makes no apologies for his investigation. He acknowledges Kathy was a controversial and polarizing figure in Nevada state politics and that she had political enemies, but says he doesn't believe anyone else is responsible for her death but Chaz Higgs.
- Unraveling the lies of Jodi Arias
- The War in Chicago
- Murder at Sea?
- Preview: "48 Hours" double feature
- Everything to Lose
- Over the Edge
- The mind of a killer: Unraveling the lies of Jodi Arias
- Murder at Sea? The disappearance of George Smith
- "48 Hours Mystery:" Rodney Alcala's Killing Game
- The real story behind Miami's murderous Sun Gym gang
- "48 Hours" Program Schedule
- Muscle and Mayhem
- The Writing on the Wall
- Did California chef David Viens kill, then cook wife?
- Power and Passion
- Extra: More victims in Alcala's photo cache?