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Man convicted of killing wife; motive not clear

The Associated Press
Friday August 03, 2001

PALO ALTO — A jury convicted a Palo Alto man of second-degree murder Thursday for beating and strangling his wife of 33 years. 

Prosecutors believe real estate consultant Kenneth Fitzhugh, 57, may have killed music teacher Kristine Fitzhugh, 52, because she was about to reveal that he was not their son’s biological father. 

But the exact motive was unclear because Fitzhugh was angry about several issues with his wife, prosecutor Michael Fletcher said outside Santa Clara County Superior Court. 

“There were other dynamics in this relationship that were stressors,” he said. Fitzhugh needs to “buck up and start being honest about this,” he added. 

The six-man, six-woman jury deliberated for three days before determining that Fitzhugh killed his wife, though not with premeditation, a requirement for a first-degree murder conviction. Fitzhugh faces 15 years to life in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 10. 

Fitzhugh sat quietly and didn’t appear to show any emotion as the verdict was read. His lawyer said he will appeal. 

Fletcher said at trial that Kristine Fitzhugh was about to tell her oldest son, Justin, that his biological father was a longtime family friend, not Kenneth Fitzhugh. DNA testing proved that 23-year-old Justin Fitzhugh’s father is former lawyer Robert Brown of Placerville. 

Police at first considered the death an accident, but an autopsy showed Kristine Fitzhugh had been killed by a blow to the head. The defense claimed an intruder killed Kristine Fitzhugh. Nolan said his client was the victim of sloppy police work and investigators who jumped to conclusions. No weapon was found and no motive was proved. 

Kenneth Fitzhugh said he was looking for a church site in San Bruno for a client when his wife was killed, and he returned home to find her dead at the bottom of the stairs. He testified that he never suspected his wife and his best friend had had an affair. 

Both Kenneth Fitzhugh and his wife’s son, Justin, took the stand during the monthlong trial. 

The jury also saw a dramatic police video of Kenneth Fitzhugh from the day of his wife’s death. He pounded the table and screamed that his wife’s shoes were responsible for her death. He said she had previously fallen while wearing the shoes found beside her body and that he had repeatedly told her to get rid of them. 

Police had found a pair of shoes, a paper towel and a shirt in Kenneth’s 1999 Chevrolet Suburban. All were flecked with his wife’s blood. His lawyer claimed a traumatized and dazed Kenneth Fitzhugh took the items to his vehicle after finding his wife’s dead body.