Aug. 2, 2001, 5:30 p.m
Fitzhugh found guilty of killing his wife
Jury votes for second-degree
by Bill D'Agostino and Elizabeth Lorenz
A Palo Alto jury found Kenneth Fitzhugh guilty Thursday of second-degree
murder in the bludgeoning death of his wife of three decades, Kristine.
The jury of six men and six women deliberated three days before
coming back with the verdict Thursday afternoon. Shortly before
4 p.m., the court clerk read the verdict: not guilty of first degree
murder, guilty of second degree murder.
The Fitzhugh sons, Justin (left, pictured with fiancee Angelina
Whitehall) and John (right) exit the courtroom after the verdict.
Photo by Robert Bradshaw
Fitzhugh was arrested two weeks after the May 5, 2000 murder of
his wife, Kristine, in the kitchen of their Southgate home. The
prosecution contended that Fitzhugh was angry because he found out
his wife planned to tell their eldest son, Justin, that his biological
father was a longtime family friend.
Police found evidence that Kristine Fitzhugh had come home with
coffee and a snack and was in her kitchen when she was attacked,
hit on the head seven times, and strangled. A chemical revealed
evidence of blood splattered throughout the kitchen.
The jury found that Fitzhugh's act was done without premeditation.
Fitzhugh, wearing a suit, smiled and waved at his two sons, Justin
and John, as he walked into the courtroom. Several jurors looked
directly at Fitzhugh as they filed into the courtroom, but he looked
straight ahead during the entire proceeding.
As the verdict was read, the Fitzhugh sons held hands, while their
father continued staring straight ahead, showing no visible reaction.
Superior Court Judge Franklin Elia scheduled Fitzhugh's sentencing
hearing for Oct. 10. Fitzhugh could receive a maximum sentence of
15 years to life in prison. The minimum amount he will serve is
85 percent of 15 years.
Jurors filed out of a courtroom side door. All chose not to speak
with the media.
"Somewhere in here there is a lesson," said Deputy District Attorney
Michael Fletcher, referring to murder cases involving husbands and
The prosecutor said he was "personally satisfied" with the verdict.
"There was an overwhelming amount of physical evidence in this
case," he said.
He thanked the Palo Alto Police Department. "They kept their heads
above the fray," he said.
Palo Alto Police Sgt. Mike Denson, who attended the verdict in
uniform, would not comment specifically on the jury's ruling, but
he did answer a defense accusation that police rushed into deciding
Fitzhugh had murdered his wife, rather than considering an intruder.
"I can't see where he got the rush to judgment. I took 14 days
to arrest this guy."
Referring to Fitzhugh's two sons, Fletcher said he hoped that
"somewhere down the road" they "find a safe harbor for this."
Defense attorney Thomas Nolan said his client wanted to thank
"He is convinced of his vindication. He will pursue that vindication.
That's what he wanted me to say," Nolan said.
"I had faith in this jury," Nolan added.
Fletcher's case rested on three pieces of evidence: tennis shoes,
a bloody shirt and a towel, all covered with the blood of Kristine
Fitzhugh. All three items were found in Fitzhugh's sport-utility
vehicle on the day of the murder.
Fletcher also poked holes into Fitzhugh's alibi that he was in
South San Francisco during the time the murder was committed. Witnesses
from a cellular telephone company testified that calls Fitzhugh
received that afternoon went through an antenna on University Avenue
in Palo Alto, meaning Fitzhugh had to be in the local area.
Fitzhugh took the stand himself, saying he discovered his wife's
body with two of her friends on the afternoon of May 5, 2000. Instead,
Fletcher said Fitzhugh had feigned his innocence in front of the
Fletcher also called paramedics, who arrived on the scene and
attempted to revive Kristine. As they worked over his wife's body,
one testified, Fitzhugh seemed surprisingly detached.
Defense Attorney Thomas Nolan contended that an intruder had found
Kristine in the basement and killed her, making it look like she
had fallen down the basement stairs.
Adam Levermore-Rich contributed to this story.