Last Updated: Tuesday, July 18, 2000, 5 p.m.

Fitzhugh bound over for trial for wife's murder

by Jennifer Kavanaugh

Kenneth Fitzhugh will face trial for the brutal murder of his wife in their Southgate neighborhood home, a Palo Alto judge ruled today.

Judge Charles Hayden ruled this afternoon that prosecutors presented enough evidence at a preliminary hearing last month to try Fitzhugh for the murder of his wife, Kristine, who was found beaten to death May 5 in the couple's Escobita Avenue home. Hayden rejected defense attorneys' request to reduce Fitzhugh's $10 million bail at this point, saying he would comment on the issue at a hearing later this month.

"It's clear to me that, without much doubt, a crime has been committed," Hayden said. "It's probable cause to believe (Fitzhugh) committed this crime. Leave it to the jury to make the final call."

After the judge announced his decision in Santa Clara County Superior Court, Fitzhugh's attorney, Thomas Nolan, renewed his call to lower Fitzhugh's bail. Nolan told the judge that Fitzhugh, a real estate developer, has been a model citizen and poses no flight risk or danger to the community. He said Fitzhugh has a better chance of fighting the murder charge if he is out of jail.

"He has a family that he's not going to flee from," Nolan said, referring to the two Fitzhugh sons, Justin and John. "He has no money, he's got two kids. He's not going to leave his kids."

Deputy District Attorney Michael Fletcher said Fitzhugh beat his wife to death and is not a pillar of the community.

"If he cared so much about his children, then he wouldn't have killed his wife," Fletcher told the judge.

Hayden, who has expressed fears that Fitzhugh might flee to avoid prosecution, said he would address the issue when Fitzhugh returns to court for a hearing on July 31. He has ordered the attorneys not to discuss the case in the media.

The judge's review of the evidence resumed today after a three-week break for vacations. When the hearing began last month, prosecutors presented testimony from Palo Alto police about blood spatters found in the family's kitchen, as well as a bloodstained shirt, paper towel and running shoes found in Kenneth Fitzhugh's blue Suburban sport-utility vehicle.

Detective Mike Denson, lead investigator on the case, testified that he was unable to corroborate the alibi Fitzhugh gave police, which is he that he was scouting real estate in San Bruno when his wife died.

Defense attorneys called as a witness a maintenance worker from San Bruno, who testified that he saw a dark sport utility vehicle near the property about the time Fitzhugh told police he was there. But the worker, Patrick Bowes, could not identify the vehicle's driver.

Nolan also presented testimony from Gaelyn Mason, one of the two women who was with Fitzhugh when he found his wife's body in the house. She reportedly told police that Fitzhugh acted normally before the discovery and that she didn't notice the bloody items in Fitzhugh's Suburban as they drove to the home.

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