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The Kristine Fitzhugh Case

Last Updated: Monday, July 2, 2001, 11:30 a.m.

Prosecution: Fitzhugh not 'innocent husband'
Murder trial opens this week with lawyers' opening arguments

by Bill D'Agostino and Elizabeth Lorenz

Things were not as they appeared, Deputy District Attorney Michael Fletcher told jurors in his opening arguments in the murder trial of Southgate resident Kenneth Fitzhugh.

What appeared to be an accident in the home he shared with his wife of 33 years, Kristine, was murder, Fletcher said, adding he has the evidence to prove his case.

The 12 jurors and three alternates listened with rapt attention as the trial began Monday morning in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Franklin Elia in Palo Alto.

"Kristine did not die of an accident. He did it," Fletcher said, pointing to Fitzhugh, who sat at the defense table dressed in a black suit, staring straight ahead.

"He played the part of an innocent husband," Fletcher said, discovering his wife's body along with two of her friends in their home on the afternoon of May 5, 2000.

Kristine Fitzhugh was found beaten in the head and strangled at the foot of her basement steps. Police turned in evidence they say shows the couple had a scuffle in the kitchen, with blood splattering over a wide area of the room. In the end, police and the prosecutor say, Kristine was killed and her body dragged to the basement to make it look like she fell.

Fletcher said the evidence will show Fitzhugh killed his wife and made it look like an accident.

The morning began rather tensely, with a series of objections by Defense Attorney Thomas Nolan to statements made by Fletcher as the prosecutor related the chronology of events leading to the murder and how the evidence will convict Fitzhugh. The judge overruled most of the defense objections, but warned Fletcher to focus on the fact that opening arguments are not evidence.

In one dramatic moment, Fletcher held up a plastic bag with a pair of men's running shoes inside. The shoes were found in Fitzhugh's car trunk, with, police say, blood on the laces and soles. Later, Fletcher showed jurors how a chemical had revealed blood spots on the shoes.

He then pulled out a green short-sleeved men's shirt that he said police found stuffed under the floorboards of Fitzhugh's car. The blood-revealing chemical Luminol showed a large blood stain in the chest area of the shirt.

After opening arguments, the six-week trial is expected to have approximately 58 prosecution witnesses testify. The star witness is expected to be Robert Brown, who said he talked to Kristine Fitzhugh before her death, adding she shared her plans to tell her oldest son, Justin, that Brown was his father.

Justin and his brother, John, are also expected to testify, so they have not been allowed to attend their father's trial.

Other expected witnesses include 15 Palo Alto police officers, three firefighters and other emergency personnel, medical examiners, and several Palo Alto school district employees who knew Kristine in her work as a music teacher.




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