Palo Alto murderer dies after 'compassionate' parole | News | Palo Alto Online |


Palo Alto murderer dies after 'compassionate' parole

Kenneth Fitzhugh was convicted in 2001 of killing his wife, a music teacher

Kenneth C. Fitzhugh Jr. had always claimed innocence after being convicted in one of Palo Alto's most brutal murders, even fighting his case in the California Supreme Court.

He ultimately obtained his freedom, but not through exoneration. He received compassionate-release parole from San Quentin Prison in February 2012 due to a terminal illness. And 8 1/2 months later, on Oct. 27, 2012, he died, according to state prison officials.

Kenneth C. Fitzhugh Jr. in 2001. File photo courtesy of the Palo Alto Police Department.
Fitzhugh was convicted in 2001 for bludgeoning and strangling his wife, Kristine, a music teacher, in their Southgate neighborhood home. The trial had exposed an unraveling 33-year marriage and an affair and money as motives for the crime. It included an admission by his wife that one of the couple's two sons was fathered by a friend, according to prosecutors.

He received 15 years to life in prison for the second-degree murder, which occurred on May 5, 2000. He would have had his first chance at parole in 2015.

Fitzhugh was paroled in 2012 after multiple stays in the San Quentin hospital. He had been transferred there from High Desert State Prison in Susanville for medical care, state prison officials said. He died in Santa Clara County, according to the Santa Clara County Coroner's office.

During Fitzhugh's trial, prosecutors alleged he killed his wife because he was angry that she planned to tell their eldest son that Fitzhugh was not his biological father.

In addition, the Fitzhughs' finances had collapsed over the two years prior to the murder. Evidence showed the family's three investment accounts plunged from nearly $400,000 in early 1998 to approximately $11,000 in May 2000.

On the day of her death, Kristine Fitzhugh had returned to her house on Escobita Avenue around noon, bringing home coffee and two muffins. She was in the kitchen eating and reading classroom papers when she was attacked, according to Palo Alto police. She was struck from behind on the head seven times with a blunt instrument and beaten in the face while being strangled with one hand. She died of several head wounds; strangulation was a contributing factor, according to the Santa Clara County Medical Examiner.

Fitzhugh said he had received a phone call from Addison Elementary School in Palo Alto, alerting him that his wife had not shown up to teach her afternoon class. Although he told police he had then called his wife on her cell phone and at the house, caller ID records showed he had not, according to police. Instead, he went to the home of two friends in Palo Alto and asked the women to accompany him to find out why his wife could not be reached.

Prosecutors said Fitzhugh had staged his wife's death and brought the friends with him to "discover" her body. After killing her in the kitchen, he had moved her to the bottom of the basement stairs to make it seem as though she had fallen. Her injuries were not consistent with a fall down the stairs, the coroner found.

Forensic testing found blood spattered throughout the kitchen. Much of it had been cleaned up prior to the arrival of police. Kristine Fitzhugh's blood was on running shoes, a towel and a shirt belonging to Fitzhugh, which were found in his Chevrolet Suburban. Fitzhugh had said the shoes were in his closet, and he could not explain the presence of the bloody items in his car, police said.

Prosecutors also dismantled Fitzhugh's alibi. He had said he was in San Bruno looking at a vacant property for a client when the murder was committed. But cell phone calls he received that afternoon were routed through an antenna on University Avenue in Palo Alto, which proved he was in the area at the time, they said.

Fitzhugh claimed an intruder killed his wife. He appealed his case. The California Supreme Court rejected his appeal in 2006.

The Fitzhugh family did not return a request for comment for this story.

Related articles:

A neighborhood tragedy: the Kristine Fitzhugh murder

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16 people like this
Posted by Phil
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2013 at 10:37 am

He was a convicted murderer. He showed no such compassion to his victim. He should have died in prison.

3 people like this
Posted by Mom
a resident of Greater Miranda
on Nov 30, 2013 at 11:11 am

What is the purpose and goal of printing this story now? This is a tragic event that should have had a publication end with his death over 1 year ago. Unfortunately, the emotional toll for those left behind continues privately but should not be publicly retold at the cost of their peace. Shame on you weekly!!

2 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 30, 2013 at 12:53 pm

He died over a year ago ... Why is this news now?

Like this comment
Posted by anything
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2013 at 3:37 pm

[Post removed.]

15 people like this
Posted by Anna
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 30, 2013 at 8:21 pm

I think this is legitimate news, and I was glad to be able to read it, even though he died last year. He did a terrible thing, and it happened in our community, and people know the family. It is important to know how it ended.

18 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 30, 2013 at 10:11 pm

I don't really know why this "compassionate release" was invoked here. His murder of his wife who did not have a chance was brutal and ugly. I think it was wrong to let him out, because I seriously doubt if this person was not from Palo Alto and was not white and upper class he would have been released. This is just more classism and racism, albeit not that important, but it still sends a message and has a meaning.

9 people like this
Posted by pal
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Dec 1, 2013 at 9:24 am

Really? Compassionate parole for a lying, cold-blooded murderer? He should have died in prison.

12 people like this
Posted by YSK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2013 at 10:42 am

"Compassionate Parole." Horrifying that such a thing even exists. How much compassion did he show to his wife, her children, their family and friends and the children she taught when he brutally murdered her in their sanctuary, their home? He should have died in prison. His wife died at the bottom of the cellar steps, he got to die in comfort. I don't understand why society is so hung up on the rights of the criminal versus the suffering of the victim and victimS. The actions of a criminal causes suffering by so many.

6 people like this
Posted by Not enough real news today?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 2, 2013 at 10:47 am

Must be a very slow news day for the Weekly to dredge up this old story and force the family to have this tragedy publicized yet again.

In this season of giving, couldn't you find something helpful and positive to write about instead?

My prayers are with the sons and other family members of the Fitzhughs.

1 person likes this
Posted by Bru
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 3, 2013 at 7:07 am

Bru is a registered user.

The other thread is still here, however seems to have been locked down, not for people critical of the story, but it seems like it might have been for people critical of allowing Fitzhugh to be released by the compassionate release program. I also disagree with the release, though it makes little difference, it just seems like such a pointless brutal act if committed by someone a bit further from the Palo Alto norm, i.e. culturally or racially who committed the same act would probably not have seen such compassion.

4 people like this
Posted by Escobito dad
a resident of Southgate
on May 15, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Escobito dad is a registered user.

[Post removed.]

2 people like this
Posted by Jane Dough
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 29, 2015 at 10:07 pm

Jane Dough is a registered user.

For those who are critical of the article for dredging up the family's pain....Please understand that so many of us either knew Ms. Fitzhugh personally or came to care for her after she was gone. We became invested in her and her sons, who showed such courage, strength, and integrity during the entire ordeal. To know that Mr. Fitzhugh is gone puts anxieties to rest for us. I know we're secondary to the family, but do try to understand that those of us who care do it out of a sense of compassion and admiration for her loved ones.

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