The Murder of Russel Douglas

This case was a bit odd to research.  There is a lot of information about the case but quite a bit of it is confusing for one, for two, the main focus of the case seemed to be more about Peggy Sue Thomas.  Thomas has had an interesting life to say the least.  She has been married several times and had a variety of jobs, but what made her so interesting to the public at large is that after one of her many marriages she decided to get into shape and began entering beauty pageants. At one point she was named Ms. Washington.  

As I stated above so much of the information in this case is confusing and contradictory even to the point of when the murder occurred or when the body was found.  Ann Rule wrote a book called Practice to Deceive and states that he was found on Christmas Day 2003 while other reports say it was on December 26th, also known as Boxing Day.  Regardless as to exactly when he was found, the issue is that he was found.  He was found in his car in a remote area north of Seattle called Whidbey Island Washington with a gun shot between the eyes.

It has been said that had a gun been found at his side it is likely that investigators would have had no issue ruling his death a suicide.  Russel was estranged from his wife Brenna and many stated that he was in a depressed state.  However, there was no gun next to him so suicide was ruled out rather quickly.

Of course, as in all investigations, authorities first looked at Brenna Douglas as their suspect.  It was discovered that she had several life insurance policies totaling nearly $500,000 so she had a very substantial motive.  However, investigators have never been able to prove Brenna was involved in the murder of her husband.  While two people were arrested and convicted of the crime in 2013, neither of them were Brenna but reports state that her actions are still being monitored.

The case had no other leads and it fell apart and grew cold very quickly.  Near the end of 2004 investigators were put on the trail of a man named James Huden.  First they were contacted by a friend who told the police that James had admitted to killing Russel Douglas with the help of his girlfriend, Peggy Sue Thomas because he wanted revenge.  But his motive of revenge seemed odd. First off it appears that James Huden did not even know Russel Douglas.  In fact, at the time they lived on opposite sides of the country.  The rumored motive was that James had heard through Peggy Sue that Russel was abusive to his wife and James, who had been abused by his stepfather as a child murdered him to have revenge against an abuser.  Sometime later a man, who had been a former cop, gave authorities a gun in which he stated James Huden had asked him to hold on to.  It would be sent for testing.

James Huden and Peggy Sue Thomas were both from the Whidbey Island area. By 2002, when the two met up again in the area for a funeral James was married and living in Florida with his wife.  To be honest I am not sure just where Peggy Sue was living at the time.  Some reports say she was in the area still and worked at a beauty salon owned by Brenna Douglas. Other reports state that her work for Brenna was in the past and that she was living in Las Vegas and working as a limo driver.  Either way, the two met up and began having an affair.  James, who had apparently quit his day job and decided to become a musician would make many trips to meet up with Peggy Sue, wherever that may have been, telling his wife he had "gigs" in the area.  

James Huden apparently got wind in late 2004 that authorities were looking for him and knowing that things were going to be hairy because of an upcoming hurricane planning to hit his area,  James was able to sneak away and moved to Mexico.  For the next seven years James lived in Mexico making a living as a guitar player.  In the meantime Peggy Sue got married and divorced again.  Her latest husband was very wealthy and despite the short length of the marriage it was said she divorced pretty well with a good settlement.  

In June of 2011 Mexican authorities found and arrested James Huden on an unlawful flight warrant from the United States and he was sent back to Washington.  By now authorities not only had the statement from Huden's friend and band mate who had implicated him, they also had forensics back on the gun he left with a friend.  It was determined the gun had been the murder weapon. They also had another witness who would claim that Huden had admitted to killing Russel Douglas with the help of Peggy Sue Thomas but this time it was at the behest of Brenna Douglas.

James Huden was offered a plea deal in which would have lowered his sentenced if he implicated Peggy Sue and testified against her.  He refused and went on trial in July of 2012.  It surely did not help that his wife Jean testified that she was one of what appeared to be several people who had heard James confess to the murder.  She would also claim to have heard Peggy Sue Thomas confess also.  James Huden was convicted of 1st degree murder and sentenced to 80 years in prison.

In January of 2013 Peggy Sue Thomas would plead guilty to rendering criminal assistance.  Amazingly before her sentence the judge allowed her basically to have a cross country trip supposedly to settle things such as selling a house and other things, apparently still from her last divorce.  The trip included several different states.  Upon her return she was given a measly sentence of four years.  In a 2015 interview with 48 Hours she would deny all involvement and continually called herself a victim saying she was threatened to confess to involvement.  The article stated that she was eligible for parole in August of 2016 and since Washington has one of the worse DOC websites all I can say is that she has obviously been released.

So why was Russel Douglas murdered and how did he end up out on that remote road in the middle of no where.  Prosecutors say that Peggy Sue Thomas lured Russel Douglas to the area claiming to have a Christmas gift for Brenna and that once there James Huden shot Douglas and they left him in the car.  They do admit that Brenna had told not just Peggy Sue, but apparently others that Russel had been abusive to her, but to be fair there has been nothing to substantiate that at all.  They claim they cannot prove that Brenna asked that her estranged husband be killed despite her business being in financial jeopardy, nor can they prove that any of the $500,000 she received changed hands to either Huden or Thomas.  So they are simply left with the motive given to them by a friend of Huden's.  

A lot about this case, and theory does not make any sense in my opinion. My first question comes with the theory of what Peggy Sue used to lure Russel Douglas to the area.  The couple was estranged and that was very well known. From most accounts they were barely speaking.  So, why would Russel care that Peggy Sue had a Christmas gift for her and why would he drive so far to get it? Secondly, it simply makes no true sense that James Huden would kill a perfect stranger so he could feel a sense of revenge against an act against him by someone else in his childhood.  


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