Famous author breaks hip in Freeland; book signing scrubbed

Ann Rule’s book signing event in Freeland this past Sunday was cancelled after the famous true-crime author fell and broke her hip.

Rule’s latest book, “Practice to Deceive,” focuses on the 2003 Christmastime murder of Russel Douglas, whose body was found inside a SUV on a South Whidbey back road.

Former South Whidbey resident James Huden was convicted of the murder in Island County Superior Court and his mistress, former beauty queen Peggy Sue Thomas, was also charged in the murder, but pleaded guilty to rendering criminal assistance.

“It’s a case with enough drama, greed, sex, and scandal to be called ‘The Real Housewives of Whidbey Island,’ but this was not reality television,” states the book description. “This was murder: pure, cruel, ugly, and senseless. And someone had to pay the price.”

Freeland resident Shirley Hickman, Rule’s longtime friend, said the author fell at a Freeland motel Saturday night. After doctors at Whidbey General Hospital found the fracture, Rule was transferred to Virginia Mason. Hickman said she underwent surgery Monday.

“She was really disappointed,” she said. “She was so looking forward to meeting various people.”

Detective Mark Plumberg, Prosecutor Greg Banks and others involved in the case had planned to attend the event.

Hickman said Rule will likely reschedule the event after the holiday season.

Hickman said she’s known Rule since 1961 and supported her as she rose to fame. She famously worked with serial killer Ted Bundy at a crisis hotline center and wrote “The Stranger Beside Me” about him.

Hickman said she alerted Rule to the Douglas murder case. She even took notes during the Huden trial and the sentencing hearings for the book.

“It was very interesting,” she said. “Ann was very pleased with my work. She couldn’t believe how detailed my notes were.”

Hickman also took notes for Rule during the recent trial and sentencing of Robert “Al” Baker, the Greenbank man and pizzeria owner who killed his wife and hid her tarp-wrapped body in their backyard while his girlfriend visited.

Hickman said she and Rule’s other friends are urging her to write an autobiography after finishing with the book on Baker.


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