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Wife of Whidbey murder victim claimed he was abusive

The wife of a Langley man who was killed just after Christmas 2003 had sought a domestic violence protection order against her husband seven months before he was murdered, court records show.

Detectives claim Russel Douglas was gunned down by James “Jim” Huden at a remote Wahl Road property as Douglas went to pick up a Christmas gift for his estranged wife, Brenna Douglas.

Huden was arrested in Veracruz, Mexico in early June, where he had been hiding from the law for nearly seven years and working as a music tutor under the name of “Maestro Jim.”

His former mistress, Peggy Sue Thomas, was arrested as an accomplice in July after police found her on her houseboat “Off the Hook” at Navajo Lake in New Mexico.

Thomas, who is also facing a first-degree murder charge, once worked with Brenna Douglas, the murder victim’s wife, at her Langley hair salon, Just B’s. Court records show that Brenna Douglas has been investigated as a third suspect in the murder.

Detectives say Huden had never met Russel Douglas before his Christmastime visit to Whidbey with Thomas in late 2003. Law enforcement authorities, however, have not given a motive for the murder — although court documents filed for the arrest of Thomas recounted an interview with Huden’s wife, Jean, who said Jim Huden told her that he and Thomas had plotted to kill Douglas and that he was abusive toward his wife and children.

Court records for a protection order sought by Brenna Douglas echo that allegation. In a three-page handwritten statement, Brenna Douglas said her husband had threatened her, called her names, yelled at their two young children and often neglected them.

Douglas was 32 at the time she made the report and filed for the court order May 22, 2003. Her husband was 31 at the time, and they were both living together at their home on Furman Avenue in Langley.

In her statement, Douglas said her husband threatened to punch her and take their two children with him to Alaska.

“He says he’ll just take them away and I’ll never see them again,” she wrote.

She claimed he also threatened to ruin her business and fire her employees.

A week earlier, she claimed, he said he would “punch me in the face and hold me under the tub H2O till my feet stopped kicking, then his life would be better.”

Brenna Douglas also said she had slept with a knife under her pillow for months at a time, and accused her husband of having an affair with a woman and another man.

She also alleged that Douglas wanted them to “swing,” and "he gets so mad when I say no.”

According to her statement, she also said that her husband often called her fat and stupid, and often talked about killing himself and his mother and father.

“I don’t trust him, he says he’ll get me when I’m not looking,” she wrote.

Brenna Douglas’ 2003 description of her husband is quite different than the one she gave during a deposition in 2007, after she had filed a lawsuit against Farmers New World Life Insurance Co. to collect the proceeds on one of her late husband’s life insurance policies.

At that time, Douglas depicted her husband in glowing terms. She said her husband was the driving force behind her hair salon. It was his idea to own a business, she said, noting that he was one class away from getting his master’s in business administration.

She just “showed up” to work at the salon, but her husband, he was the organizer, the one with the eye for detail, “Mr. Flow Chart,” and the one who would offer to step in when a salon employee needed to be fired even after the couple had separated.

According to court records, Brenna Douglas asked the court to drop the request for a protection order about two weeks after it was filed.

Douglas moved off Whidbey Island earlier this year, though authorities have said they remain in contact with her.

Huden remains in the county jail in Coupeville on $10 million bail.

Thomas is scheduled to be arraigned on a charge of first-degree murder Oct. 31 in Island County Superior Court.

Huden’s first-degree murder trial is scheduled to start March 13, 2012.

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