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County identifies murder suspect

James Huden - file photo
James Huden
— image credit: file photo

The Island County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office has charged former South Whidbey resident James Huden with the first-degree pre-meditated shooting of Russell Douglas, county officials confirmed this week.

Huden has long been a suspect in the Dec. 27, 2003 Freeland murder.

Although the $1 million warrant to arrest Huden was authorized by Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock on May 27 this year, county law enforcement chose to play that information close to their chests.

Acting on the advice of investigators from the U.S. Marshal’s office, Sheriff Mike Hawley and Prosecutor Greg Banks did not announce the information to the media.

Hawley said news of the warrant was not released in May in cooperation with the U.S. Marshall’s office.

“We kept the investigation quiet voluntarily while investigators from the U.S. Marshal’s office attempted to locate Huden,” Hawley said.

Huden is still at large.

Huden was initially wanted on a temporary felony warrant in September 2004. Since that time the investigation into the crime has continued with the assistance other law enforcement agencies.

“We wanted help from the feds to get Huden. Their recommendation was not to make a big media splash when the warrant was issued in May. We believed they were able to reach further than we could,” Banks said.

By then the case had stretched to Nevada, New Mexico and Florida.

Hawley said he contacted the U.S. Marshal’s office when it became apparent the case was spread out in several states, and possibly out of the country.

Island County detectives have worked with the Punta Gorda, Florida police department, the Dona Ana, N.M. Sheriff’s office and Nevada law enforcement agencies.

Also onboard are investigators from the state attorney general’s Homicide Investigation Tracking System.

According to the certification of probable cause, a friend of Huden, William Hill, who lives in Punta Gorda, Fla. helped lead investigators to Huden.

In July 2004, Hill told Cmdr. Mike Beech of the Island County Sheriff’s Office that Huden was his friend, and he confided in him that he shot a man in the head while he was visiting Whidbey Island in December 2003. Huden told Hill that he used a .380-caliber handgun and that he was unable to locate the shell casing after the shooting, according to the court documents. Beech conducted several interviews with Hill, who is considered a credible witness.

Fearing that he would be arrested for Douglas’ murder, Huden disappeared from his Punta Gorda home. Investigations in Florida were stalled because of several hurricanes that hit the area in September 2004.

Huden is accused of shooting Douglas with with a .380 Bersa while Douglas sat in his Chevrolet Geo Tracker. Douglas body was discovered by a couple walking their dog in a wooded driveway off Wahl Road Dec. 27, 2003. The Island County Coroner estimated time of death between noon and 2 p.m. on Dec. 26.

Douglas, a Renton resident and former South Whidbey resident, was in Langley visiting his two children and estranged wife for the Christmas holiday.

According to Hawley, Huden’s former girlfriend, Peggy Thomas, remains a person of interest in the case for her potential participation.

The investigation is continuing.

“This case will stay active until its resolved,” Banks said.

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