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IT was dubbed the “Drop Dead Gorgeous” murder – and today a former beauty queen sits behind bars for luring a man to his death in hopes of sharing $500,000 in insurance money.
But when she won the Ms. Washington crown in 2000, Peggy Sue Thomas told judges the biggest challenge facing women was “raising children with morals, even with all the violence, sex and drugs in the media.”
APPARENTLY, THE 6-foot auburn-haired mother of two forgot that in December 2003.
That’s when cops say she lured Russell Douglas, the estranged husband of a co-worker, to some woods on Washington’s Whidbey Island on the pretext of giving him a Christmas gift.
Instead, Peggy Sue’s then-boyfriend, a married man named James Huden who played guitar in a band called Buck Naked and the Xhibitionists, shot Douglas in the head at point-blank range, authorities say.
His body was found two days after Christmas by a man walking his dog.
When cops checked the 32-year-old father-of-two’s cell phone records, they discovered he’d been in touch with Peggy Sue, a hairdresser who worked at a beauty salon owned by Douglas’ wife Brenna. Prosecutors implicated Brenna in her husband’s murder, and insurance giant AIG refused to pay off a $200,000 life insurance policy, arguing that the prosecutor had called Brenna an “accomplice.”
Brenna, who was never charged, sued, and AIG was ordered to pay up. But Farmer’s Insurance avoided paying a $300,000 policy, claiming Russell had failed to disclose a heart murmur.
After the murder, Huden’s wife told investigators that both Huden and Peggy Sue had confessed to her about killing Douglas.
“Brenna wanted to be rid of her husband, Jim wanted some money and Peggy would do anything for Jim,” Huden’s wife Jean told investigators.
Despite that, cops couldn’t get enough evidence to file charges, and Peggy Sue fled to Las Vegas, where she worked as a limo driver.
In 2006, she married millionaire oilman Mark Allen and moved to his New Mexico horse ranch.
In 2009, his thoroughbred Mine the Bird, a 50-1 longshot, won the Kentucky Derby.
When their marriage ended in 2010, Peggy Sue got $700,000 and a $500,000 houseboat that she christened “Off the Hook.”
Cops finally arrested Huden in June 2011 in Mexico, where he’d been living for six years. They busted Peggy Sue a month later on her houseboat in New Mexico. Both were charged with first-degree murder. Huden, 58, was found guilty last summer and sentenced to 80 years in prison. Prosecutors offered to cut his sentence if he testified against Peggy Sue, but he refused.
As a result, the murder charge against her – which carried a sentence of up to 45 years – was dropped. Instead, she pleaded guilty to a charge of rendering criminal assistance.
On Feb. 14, the 47-year-old got a slap-on-the-wrist sentence of four years – much to the disgust of Russell’s father, Jim Douglas, who said: “She escaped a major-league crime with a minor-league sentence.”