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Notorious South end murder case goes to trial

James Huden - Jessie Stensland / The Record
James Huden
— image credit: Jessie Stensland / The Record

One of two people charged in a South Whidbey murder case that’s received national attention will go on trial next week.

James Huden, 55, is accused of first-degree murder in the 2003 Christmastime shooting death of Russel Douglas, a 31-year-old father of two. The trial is set to start with jury selection on Tuesday, July 10.

Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks has been spending endless hours getting ready for the complex trial, which is scheduled to extend over three weeks.

“It’s big,” he said. “It’s big for me. There’s a lot of witnesses. There’s a lot of logistics. People are coming in from all over the country.”

Huden is accused of shooting Douglas in the head with a .380 caliber pistol after Huden’s mistress, Peggy Sue Thomas, lured him to a rural area of South Whidbey with the promise of a gift, according to the police report. Douglas’ body was found in the front seat of his 2002 Chevrolet Tracker next to a wooded driveway on Wahl Road.

Thomas, a Langley hairdresser and former beauty queen, has also been charged with first-degree murder. She worked for Douglas’ estranged wife at a Langley hair salon, which is apparently the link between the victim and the alleged killers. She’s scheduled to go to trial in November.

Huden was a fugitive for six years, but was finally arrested by a U.S. Marshal’s Service in Mexico last June. Thomas was arrested about a month later in New Mexico, where she had been living in a half-million dollar houseboat called “Off the Hook.”

Banks said Thomas won’t testify at Huden’s trial. But he said her trial will likely be a replay of the Huden case, with one big difference. Huden’s wife can’t testify against her husband because of the state’s marital disqualification law, but she will be able to testify against Thomas.

Among the many news organization that have been following the story is Dateline. Banks said the producers from the news show will likely be following the trial closely.

 

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