Last Updated: Tuesday, May 23, 2000, 10:30 a.m.

Text of the affidavit filed by Palo Alto police

The following is the text of the sworn affidavit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court by Palo Alto police in support of their request for a warrant to arrest Kenneth Fitzhugh on the charge of murdering his wife, Kristine.

Readers are strongly cautioned that none of the allegations in the affidavit has been proven in a court of law. The affidavit, signed by Detective Mike Denson, is a statement by police concerning facts in the case they believe to be true or that they know from their own observations. The affidavit does not include any response from Kenneth Fitzhugh to the allegations, nor does it reflect his plea in the case.

Readers are additionally cautioned that the affidavit contains graphic language depicting violence. Parents may wish to screen the material before allowing their children to view it.

Case No. 00-126-0111

The following information is based on information that I hove personally gathered or that has been relayed to me by other Palo Alto police officers, members of the Santa Clara County Coroner's Office, and/or members of Santa Clara County Crime Laboratory.


On May 5, 2000, Kenneth Fitzhugh Jr. killed his wife, Kristine Fitzhugh, by beating her over the head with a blunt object and strangling her. This vicious assault occurred in the kitchen of their home located at 1545 Escobita Ave., Palo Alto, California. During the assault, the victim lost a substantial amount of blood. Mr Fitzhugh attempted to clean up the victim's blood, which had dripped onto the kitchen floor and furniture. He then moved her body and "staged" it at the foot of the basement stairway adjacent to a brass ship bell. Later he brought friends to the scene so that he would have witnesses to the "discovery" of his wife's body. He attempted to mislead investigators by suggesting that the victim had been killed when she fell down the basement stairs and hit her head.

Factual Background

The victim, Kristine Fitzhugh, and the defendant were married for the last 33 years. They had two children. The victim worked as part-time music teacher for the Palo Alto School District and was (sic) did volunteer work for community organizations. Mr. Fitzhugh was self-employed as a real estate consultant and ran the business out of their residence. He also did paralegal work on a part-time basis. For the last 18 years, the Fitzhugh family has lived at 1545 Escobita Ave., Palo Alto.

The Crime Scene

The Fitzhughs' home is in a neighborhood is (sic) known as "Southgate". The house has two stories, four bedrooms, an attic, and a basement. The following description reflects the appearance of the home when police saw it on May 5, 2000, the day Kristine was killed. The kitchen had a hardwood floor, an island, and a stainless steel sink with a garbage disposal. On the pink tile counter was a paper towel rack. Under the sink was a storage cabinet that contained cleaning fluids and paper bags. A rectangular wooden table and four wooden chairs were located by the east wall. One of the chairs was situated at the south end of the table. The table was centered in front of a large window that looked eastward toward a section of the back yard. Dark green pattern wallpaper covered the kitchen walls.

At the end of the hallway was a laundry room. This room had shelving that was used for storage, including a large package of paper towels. There was a washer and a dryer that had blood spatter on them.

Directly across from the kitchen was a door that led down to the basement. The basement floor was cement. The basement contained storage cabinets, cleaning materials, tools, and other objects consistent with a home that had been lived in for 18 years.

The 12 stairs leading into the basement appeared to have been rebuilt recently. The white steps had synthetic anti-slip strips attached to the leading edge of each step. There was a round wooden handrail adjacent to the stairs. One of the victim's shoes was located on the left side of the seventh step from the top of the staircase. The landing was about four feet square and was covered with a carpet. The carpet had a wet bloodstain on it. A large heavy brass ship bell had been placed at an unusual location, blocking a portion of the landing. Fire Personnel moved the bell because it interfered with their resuscitation efforts. A telephone was located at the base of the stairs. Items of clothing in dry cleaning bags and school papers were found near the victims' body. These items had blood on them by the time police arrived. The basement floor had a large pool of wet blood consistent with the location of victim's head when resuscitation efforts were attempted. The Fitzhughs owned three automobiles. There is no garage and only one of the cars could fit in the driveway. Escobita Avenue is a narrow tree lined street. When a large car, such as the Fitzhughs' Suburban, was parked on the street, there was room for only one car to pass it at a time. Mr. Fitzhugh typically drove a green convertible 325 BMW or a blue 1999 Suburban (California License plate # 4JSK143). Both of these vehicles typically were parked on the street in front of the house. Ms. Fitzhugh drove a silver 325 BMW, which she parked in the driveway. Officers responding to the scene found the (sic) Ms. Fitzhugh's car parked in the driveway and other vehicles parked on the street in front of the house.

Time of Death

According to witnesses, Kristine Fitzhugh was at Peet's Coffee Shop in Palo Alto on May 5, 2000, after teaching her regularly scheduled music class. At approximately noon she bought two muffins and coffee.

The investigation determined that a Fed-Ex employee, who attempted to deliver a package to the victim's home at 12:08 p.m. on May 5, 2000, said that no one answered the door. The driver stated that there were no cars in the driveway, and the Suburban was not parked in front of the house. The event was initially reported to the police by way of a "911" call that was placed from the victim's residence at 1:41 p.m. on May 5, 2000. Based on this and other information, I believe that the time of the victim's death was between 12:08 p.m. (the time the Fed-Ex driver knocked on the door) and 1:41 p.m. (the time of the "911" call).

Discovery of Victim

Two female friends of the victim told investigators that Mr. Fitzhugh arrived at their home on May 5, 2000 around 1:30 p.m. driving his blue Suburban. He told them that his wife had not shown up for class and he wanted to go by his house to see if she was there. They rode with Fitzhugh to his Escobita Avenue home. They noticed that the front door was ajar and remained in the car while Mr. Fitzhugh went inside. They saw him go upstairs and heard him calling out Kristine's name. Mr. Fitzhugh looked around downstairs and then came back outside and told them he need (sic) help because his wife was injured. One of the women went downstairs with Mr. Fitzhugh. She observed Kristine Fitzhugh's body lying at the base of the stairs. Her head was on the landing, near the ship's bell and her legs extended up the stairwell. There were several pieces (sic) clothing in dry cleaning bags and school papers under her body. One woman called "911" and told the Palo Alto Police Department dispatcher that a person was injured inside the residence located at 1545 Escobita Avenue.

The Fire Department and Officer Priess of the Palo Alto Police Department were dispatched to the residence. In the meantime, one of the women and Mr. Fitzhugh moved the victim to a flat area of the basement. Fire Department personnel arrived and were directed to the basement. Resuscitation was attempted but Ms. Fitzhugh was already dead.

Officer Priess arrived shortly after the Fire Department. He found Kenneth Fitzhugh Jr. and the two women at the residence. He noticed that Kenneth Fitzhugh was wearing black dress shoes, black pants and a light colored dress shirt. Mr. Fitzhugh told Officer Priess that the injured woman was his wife, and went on to say that she must have slipped while carrying some dry cleaning down the stairs and hit her head. Mr. Fitzhugh explained that when he discovered his wife's body, her head was at the bottom of the stairs next to the ship's bell, and her feet were above her on the stairs. He said that some dry cleaning was under her head and one of her shoes was located farther up the stairs.

Officer Priess believed the death to be an unattended accident. He called in back up to assist in the investigation. Mr. Fitzhugh and the two women were taken to a room where they remained until investigators arrived. In the mean time (sic) Mr. Fitzhugh made telephone calls and told people that his wife had been killed when she slipped and fell down the basement stairs.

I was assigned the investigation and arrived at the residence at approximately 3:00 p.m. on May 5, 2000. I observed the condition of the house, and in particular the stairwell area where the victim had been found. The victim's right shoe was on the seventh step from the top. There was blood on the victim, mostly around her head area. There was more blood on the floor and on a large heavy brass bell. By the time I arrived, the ship's bell had been moved away from the landing area to make room for resuscitation efforts.

On the dining room table, I observed the victim's purse, keys, an uneaten muffin, and a bottle of water. On the kitchen table was a half-eaten muffin, a half-full cup of coffee, a notebook, some school papers, and an orange marker. It appeared to me that the victim had been sitting at the kitchen table immediately before she died.

Suspect's Story

Kenneth Fitzhugh agreed to come to the police department so that I could interview him. I asked him to tell me what he and his wife had done that day. Mr. Fitzhugh proceeded to tell me the following:

He and his wife, Kristine Fitzhugh, got up around 6 a.m., read the newspaper and drank coffee. They went jogging at approximately 7:00 a.m., returning around 7:45 a.m. Mr. Fitzhugh said he took off his clothes and put his running shoes back in his bedroom closet. Fitzhugh claimed that after showering he put on the same clothing that he was wearing while talking with me. These were the same clothes he had on when Officer Priess first arrived at the house. At around 10:00 a.m. his wife left the house in her silver BMW and headed to teach her regular scheduled 10:20 a.m. music class at nearby Duvenick (sic) Elementary School. Mr. Fitzhugh claimed that he left the residence around 11:00 a.m. and drove his Suburban to a vacant lot located at 2101 Sneath Lane in San Bruno, California. He arrived at 11:45 a.m. and parked his Suburban in the parking lot adjacent to the vacant lot. He said he then walked around the undeveloped property for about an hour and considered whether it was a suitable site for a building a potential client wished to construct. However, Mr. Fitzhugh could not provide specific details concerning what he did during the time spent on the property. He admitted that that he did not have any plans or drawings, did not know the size or layout of the building, and lacked many of the particulars necessary to evaluate whether the property was suitable. He said that he did not speak to anyone while at the site.

Mr. Fitzhugh said that he had an appointment at 1:30 to pick up some friends in Palo Alto to run errands. He left the property and drove southbound on Highway 101. At approximately 1:15 p.m., near the Woodside Road turnoff, he received a call on his cell phone from a coworker of Kristine, which had been forwarded, from his home phone. The coworker told him that his wife had not arrived to teach her 12:50 p.m. class at Addison Elementary School. Fitzhugh suggested that she try Kristine's new cell phone number, which he gave to her. She said that she would attempt to reach her by calling that number. He said that he would do the same. He told me that he immediately called his wife's new cell phone number and called the home phone number. He said there was no answer at either location.

Fitzhugh said he continued to drive to the home of two friends of his and Kristine's in Palo Alto. Once at the house he told them that his wife had not showed up for her 12:50 class, and that he wanted to go back to his house to see if she was there. They agreed and he drove them to his residence on Escobita Avenue in his blue Suburban.

When they arrived, Fitzhugh said his wife's car was parked in the driveway and the front door to the house was ajar. He went inside while the two women waited outside in his Suburban. He said that he first looked upstairs and called out her name. He then looked for her on the on the (sic) first floor. When he noticed that the door to the stairwell leading to the basement was ajar he looked down the stairwell, he saw his wife lying near the bottom landing. Her body was on top of some dry cleaning, her hands were clutching some items, and her face was touching a large brass ship bell. He said he did not immediately go down the stairs. Instead, he went back outside and told the woman that he "needed some help". They all came inside, and one of the women went down into the basement with Mr. Fitzhugh. The other woman called 911. He said that he and one of the women attempted CPR on the victim. They continued to give CPR until the personnel from the Fire Department arrived at around 1:40 p.m. He said he realized that his wife was dead while he was giving her CPR but nevertheless he continued until Fire Department personnel took over. He said about the time that Officer Priess arrived he was told by a member of the Fire Department that his wife was dead.

After hearing Mr. Fitzhugh's explanation of his actions that day, I asked him for consent to search his house and his cars. I was interested in determining whether anything had been stolen from the house. He agreed, and I obtained a Consent to Search form. He provided me with most of the information that was necessary to completely fill out the form, however, when it came time to sign the form he declined to sign it. I left the room briefly, and when I returned he said that he changed his mind and that I could search the house and the cars as long as he could come along. I agreed. He then signed the consent to search form.

I returned to the house with Mr. Fitzhugh. Other officers assisted in searching the home and the vehicles. While at the home an officer told me that a bloody paper towel and a pair of bloody running shoes had been found in Mr. Fitzhugh's Suburban. The Suburban was sealed and impounded. I asked Mr. Fitzhugh if he could show me where the running shoes he had worn that morning were located. He took me upstairs to a closet in the master bedroom. I observed an empty space in a row of shoes that were lined up on the floor of the closet. He told me his running shoes should be where the empty space was. He described the running shoes to me. I informed him that his running shoes had been found in his Suburban, and showed him a picture of the recovered shoes. He had no explanation as to why they would be in the vehicle. He further stated that he had no explanation for why they would have his wife's blood on them. He also could not provide an explanation for the bloody towel. Subsequently, Mr. Fitzhugh left the house and went to pick up his son at the airport.

In an interview conducted several hours later, Mr. Fitzhugh told me that perhaps his wife's blood had gotten on the shoes when she cut her left hand a week or two before while gardening. He said the (sic) he applied direct pressure to her wound to stop the bleeding, and suggested perhaps that explained the blood on the shoe. He still could not explain how his running shoes got into the Suburban, or why they would have blood on the sole.

When asked again about the bloody paper towel that had been found in the back of his Suburban, this time he said that he had cleaned himself up after the police arrived and then went outside to check on his dogs that were in the Suburban. He said he believed that he might have tossed the paper towel in the vehicle at that time.

Coroner's Investigation and Findings

I met with the Chief Coroner for Santa Clara Counsy Dr. Edward Schmunk, and his associate, forensic pathologist Dr. Diane Vertis at the victim's 1545 Escobita Avenue residence.

Dr. Vertis conducted the autopsy and told me that she observed the following injuries on the victim: 1) three impact wounds on the top of her head, indicating that the victim had been stuck from behind with a blunt object; 2) three more impact wounds on the back of the head, indicating that she had been struck from behind with at blunt object; 3) a puncture wound behind the victim's right ear that extended through her skull and into the brain; indicating that a blunt object had struck the head with sufficient force to fracture the skull; 4) injuries to the victim's throat and neck indicating that she had been strangled; 5) injuries to the victim's face, including two black eyes, indicating that she had been punched and/or slapped in eyes, mouth and face; and 6) a "defensive" type injury to her left little finger, consistent with her having put her hand up to block a blow. Embedded in the laceration was the victim's wedding ring.

Both Dr. Vertis and Dr. Schmunk told me that in their expert opinions the head wounds ("craniocerebral trauma") were the cause of death, and manual strangulation was a contributing factor. They said that these injuries were not consistent with the victim falling down the basement stairs of the residence. These wounds were consistent with the assailant attacking Ms. Fitzhugh from behind with a blunt object and the victim at least briefly attempting to fend off the attack. The injuries were consistent with an attack that included the assailant having grabbed Kristine's neck, attempting to strangle her with one hand, while punching her face with the other. In all likelihood, they believed Ms. Fitzhugh was dead before she was moved to the basement.

Blood Evidence

Several spatters of blood were located in the kitchen area. Some of this blood was located under objects. On closer inspection, members of the police department were able to locate over seventy blood spatters in the kitchen area alone. Some of the blood spatter evidence was consistent with blood flying off an object used to assault the victim. More blood spatter evidence was located in the laundry room.

On May 10, 2000, members of the Santa Clara County Laboratory of Criminalist and members of the Palo Alto Police Department conducted luminol testing at the residence. This is a procedure whereby a special liquid chemical that has a fluorescent reaction to blood is sprayed on an area. This procedure allows for detection of blood that can not be seen by the naked eye, and is especially useful in detecting blood residue remaining after an assailant cleans up the scene of a violent crime. Photographs were taken documenting the luminol testing and are attached hereto as Exhibits 1-6. The bluish color that appears in these photographs I believe reflects the luminol reacting with blood.

Evidence of blood was located on the kitchen chair that was found next to the half-eaten muffin and Ms. Fitzhugh's music papers (Exhibit 1b and 2b). Evidence of blood was found on the kitchen wall (Exhibit 3b). Evidence of a large area of blood was revealed on the kitchen floor (Exhibit 4b). A luminous path of blood led from the kitchen to the top of the basement stairs (Exhibit 5b). Evidence of a pool of blood was detected on the top of basement stairs (Exhibit 5b and 6b). Apparent in Exhibits 4b and 5b are distinctive patterns that appeared to me to be consistent with the soles of Mr. Fitzhugh's running shoes. Within the luminous images in Exhibits 4b and 6b, there appeared a pattern consistent with someone having wiped up blood.

A complete search of Mr. Fitzhugh's Suburban was conducted on May 10, 2000. A medium size Brooks Brother's (sic) shirt was found stuffed under the front seat. On the front of the shirt was a large round stain that appeared to be blood. In the master bedroom closet I found other medium sized men's dress shirts. A witness recalled Mr. Fitzhugh wearing a similar shirt on many occasions.

DNA Test Results

A blood sample was taken from Kristine Fitzhugh at the time of the autopsy. A blood sample was also obtained from Mr. Fitzhugh. Mr. Fitzhugh's running shoes and the shirt found in his Suburban were submitted to the Santa Clara County Crime Laboratory for DNA testing. The Santa Clara Crime Laboratory is nationally certified to conduct DNA testing. A member of the Crime Laboratory told me that DNA testing established that Kristine Fitzhugh's blood was on both the running shoes and the shirt found in Mr. Fitzhugh's Suburban.

Attempts To Corroborate Suspect's Story

Mr. Fitzhugh was asked to provide any information or witnesses that could help corroborate his claim that he was away from the home from 11:00 a.m. until 1:41 p.m. on May 5, 2000. Other than the two women who he picked up and took back to his house, and Kristine's coworker, Fitzhugh told me that he did not speak to anyone else and did not know anyone that saw him during this time period.

The phones in the residence were hooked up to caller identification boxes. These devices recorded the time and the number of the last ten calls that were made to the residence. The devices were examined and the numbers stored therein were documented. The number from Kristine's coworker was located on the boxes and the time indicated was consistent with her statement. According to Mr. Fitzhugh's story, his cell phone number should have on the (sic) appeared shortly before or shortly after that call. This was not the case. His cell phone number did not show up on of any of the caller identification boxes.

A fellow police officer told me that he drove to the location to 2101 Sneath Lane, San Bruno, and determined that it was vacant lot adjacent to a business called the Family Golf Center. The officer told me he spoke to employees of the Family Golf Center. He spoke to a manager of the facility. She told him that she knows Kenneth Fitzhugh and had an on going (sic) long-term friendly business relationship with him. She has spoken to him on several occasions. She said that Mr. Fitzhugh he (sic) had been involved in getting the city building permits for the facility. She pointed out the vacant lot to him (2101 Sneath Lane). The lot was adjacent to the office and was clearly visible from the office. The manager told Officer Souza that due to the nature of their relationship, it would be unusual for Mr. Fitzhugh to be on or near the property and not come into her office and speak with her or other employees. She told him that if he had been at the property on May 5th between 11:45 a.m. and 12:45 a.m, she would have seen him.

Mr. Fitzhugh had shown me where on Kristine's hand she had allegedly been injured in the garden accident. Dr Vertis examined the same area of victim's hand and said based on the description of the injury, she expected to see some indication of the wound. She saw none.

Mr. Fitzhugh has told me that nothing was missing from the residence. During the investigation I have not discovered any evidence of a forced entry into the residence or any evidence that property was stolen from the residence.

The facts set forth in this written statement are true, based upon my information and belief, except those facts which are set forth as my own observations, which I know to be true based upon personal knowledge.

Dated: May 19, 2000
Detective Mike Denson
Palo Alto Police Department

Palo Alto Online Logo