Former beauty queen Peggy Sue Thomas was sentenced to four years in prison Friday for her involvement in the 2003 murder of Russ Douglas, who was found fatally shot after in his parked car. Thomas, 47, was facing decades behind bars but agreed to a plea deal from prosecutors who deemed it too risky to try her for first-degree murder.
As part of her arrangement, Thomas pleaded guilty to first-degree rendering criminal assistance to Douglas’ murder on Whidbey Island, Wash. With the promise of a Christmas gift, she lured Douglas into an ambush at the hands of her then-boyfriend James Huden. Huden, according to the Seattle Times, was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to 80 years in prison.
The motive for the crime is still in dispute, but the prosecution said Huden and Thomas had planned to kill Douglas because they thought he was abusing his wife and children. Thomas worked for Douglas’ wife in a Washington salon as a beautician.
“She has escaped a major-league crime for a minor-league sentence,” said the victim’s father, Jim Douglas, who spoke for a family upset by what they perceive as a lenient sentence by Superior Court Judge Alan Hancock. As Thomas looked on politely, Douglas called her “the most despicable of the human species.”
“I call on her to give a full account of what she knows,” Hancock said. “Without this information there will always be a cloud over this. If Ms. Thomas does not tell everything she knows, it is only fair she be tormented the rest of her life by what she knows.”
Much of the attention on the case focused on Thomas’ title as the former Ms. Washington. She won the beauty queen title in 2000, although her silence on Douglas’ murder has left the case shrouded in mystery.
Thomas was formerly married to Alaska oil millionaire Mark Allen, owner of the racehorse Mine That Bird, which won the Kentucky Derby in 2009.
Detectives initially investigated Douglas’ wife, Brenna, a close friend of Thomas who stood to receive $500,000 in the event of his death, as noted by the Christian Post. Brenna Douglas has since moved and denied any involvement in the killing.
On hand for the former beauty queen’s sentence was true-crime author Ann Rule, who is reportedly writing a book about the case.