‘Killer couple’ featured in Oxygen network TV series

Peggy Sue Thomas appears in Island County Superior Court in 2013 for a sentencing hearing.

Just as one of the parties in a highly publicized murder case was released from prison, yet another TV crime series recounted the sordid story of a 2003 murder on Whidbey Island.

The Oxygen network’s series “Snapped: Killer Couples” ran an episode on Peggy Thomas and Jim Huden last week. The episode will play again Sept. 2.

“Peggy Thomas is best remembered as the drop-dead gorgeous beauty queen who spent time in prison for her part in the murder of her best friend’s husband, Russel Douglas, along with her former lover, Jim Huden,” according to a promotional article about the episode.

The case was the subject of NBC’s Dateline and several other crime documentary series, as well as the book “Practice to Deceive” by the late true-crime writer Ann Rule. Rule devoted a chapter of her book to criticizing a former South Whidbey Record editor for in-depth coverage of the murder case.

The show focuses on the relationship between Peggy Sue Thomas, former Ms. Washington, and James Huden, a musician in a band.

After years on the run, Huden was convicted in 2012 of murdering 32-year-old Russel Douglas, a father of two.

Thomas was accused of luring Douglas to a secluded area in Freeland the day after Christmas with the promise of a gift; Thomas denied this account.

Huden shot Douglas between the eyes as he sat in his vehicle.

Huden fled to Mexico, but was finally caught and prosecuted nine years later. A jury in Island County Superior Court convicted Huden of first-degree murder. The judge handed him an exceptional sentence of 80 years in prison.

The motive for the murder was never absolutely clear. The prosecutor’s sentencing memorandum asserts that Huden believed Douglas was abusive to his children and that, “murdering Douglas would serve as a proxy killing of Huden’s own abusive father.”

Huden did not know Douglas; Thomas provided the only link between Huden and Douglas. She worked as a hairdresser in Langley for Douglas’ estranged wife, Brenna Douglas.

The prosecutor offered Huden a plea bargain if he would explain Thomas’ alleged role in the murder, but he never said anything against her.

Thomas pleaded guilty to rendering criminal assistance under a plea bargain and was sentenced to four years in prison. Under the agreement, she admitted to helping Huden after the murder.

At the sentencing hearing, however, Thomas’ defense attorney argued that she was innocent and pointed a finger at Brenna Douglas, suggesting she was also involved.

Thomas was released from prison this month, according to the state’s inmate roster.