COUPEVILLE — Former beauty queen Peggy Sue Thomas was sentenced this morning to four years in prison for luring a man to death nearly a decade ago.
Thomas, winner of the 2000 Ms. Washington pageant, pleaded guilty last month to first-degree rendering criminal assistance after striking a plea deal with Island County prosecutors who were preparing to try Thomas for first-degree murder. Had she been convicted of murder, Thomas, 47, could have received what would have amounted to a life sentence.
In exchange for her guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to recommend a four-year sentence.
Thomas was accused of plotting with her then-boyfriend, James Huden, to kill Russel Douglas, who was found shot to death in a car in Freeland, Whidbey Island, two days after Christmas 2003. Thomas, a former beautician, had once worked at a salon owned by Douglas’ wife.
Huden was arrested in Mexico in June 2011 and Thomas was arrested a month later in Farmington, N.M., on her houseboat.
Huden was convicted of first-degree murder in Island County Superior Court last summer and sentenced to 80 years in prison. But he refused to testify against Thomas, even declining an offer from the prosecution that would have lessened his sentence, according to the Whidbey News-Times.
Huden never did disclose a motive for the slaying.
During this morning’s sentencing hearing, Jim Douglas, the slain man’s father, spoke via Skype from Virginia in support of a longer sentence for Thomas.
“You’re not a victim, you’re a predator,” Jim Douglas said to Thomas.
Island County Superior Court Judge Alan R. Hancock said that despite the sentence, Douglas’ family still does not know exactly why he was killed because Thomas never opened up.
“I call on her to give a full account of what she knows,” he 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.”
Craig Platt, Thomas’ lawyer, said that she feels terrible about what happened to Douglas.
Thomas declined to address the court.
Thomas’ case has drawn national media coverage. NBC’s “Dateline” and “America’s Most Wanted” have followed what some scribes breathlessly dubbed the “Drop Dead Gorgeous Case.” True-crime author Ann Rule, who was in court this morning, reportedly plans a book on the homicide.
Thomas went to beauty school, had stints repairing cars and naval aircraft, and was once wed to the millionaire owner of Mine That Bird, a thoroughbred that won the 2009 Kentucky Derby.
In October 2011, shortly after her arrest, Thomas made headlines when an Island County judge allowed her to take a two-week, five-state road trip so she could tend to personal business.
Thomas, who was free on $500,000 bail, sought permission to attend a memorial for her recently deceased half-sister in Idaho, and to travel to New Mexico, Utah and Nevada to prepare to sell a house, go to her dentist, and collect her winter clothes, among other things.