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Visit Money's a motive. Pride is a motive. Love is a motive. It's a tale of love turned lethal, featuring an adoring wife, a pageant queen.


She was a whole lot of gorgeous woman.


And at center stage, a charismatic guitar hero.


Just charming.


Everybody loved him. He was playing a spouse for quite some time.


Two women, one man. A love triangle with sharp edges.


Jim, at one point, had told me that he wanted to know what it felt like to kill somebody.


In this twisted game of hearts, how many would have to pay the price?


She called and let me know that Russ was dead.


How far would things go? I looked in her eyes, and, I mean, she's evil. She is evil. A manhunt would stretch from the northwest down to Mexico and run smack into mother nature.


Your suspect is quite literally in the wind.


He's gone. I'm Lester Holt, and this is Dateline. Here's. Josh Makowitz.


Love, according to the songwriters, is a many splendid thing. Financial empires have been built on our annual homage to hearts and flowers. But this story is about people caught in the powerful grip of love's darker side obsession. It involves talented and beautiful people ms. Washington. Smart people whose obsessions made them do stupid things. Passionate people caught in an emotional whirlwind.


We, the jury, find the defendant and.


Finally, innocent people who paid the price. When those passions ran amok, it all began, of course, on a dark and stormy night.


They now expect what they're calling a worst case scenario.


It was August 2004, friday the 13th. Hurricane Charlie was hammering Florida's Gulf coast, particularly the coastal city of Punta Gorda.


Our message to you now is urgency and safety.


Get into your safe room right now and hunker down.


That night, Jean Huughten says her life was quite literally in shambles.


I stayed and rode the hurricane out by myself in the house and watched my house come apart around my ears.


60 miles to the south, jean's husband Jim was holed up in a hotel, hiding not from the storm, but from his past.


He was scared, so he figured he'd get while again was good.


As soon as the worst of the storm had blown over, jean says she joined her panicked husband. They ordered pizza and turned on the TV. The losses are substantial, but Jean couldn't concentrate on the hurricane news. The personal storm that was wrecking her marriage and ruining her life took precedence.


It was a big tension fest. We talked. I asked a lot of questions. Why and what were you thinking? And what are you going to do now?


It was a messy situation. Betrayal, deception, desertion. The usual menu of dysfunction that all too often falls under the category of another woman. But there was more to it than that. Much more. A homicide investigation was at stake, one that just days earlier had led Detective Mark Plumber from Whidby Island, Washington, all the way to Punta Gorda, Florida. He was hot on the trail of a potential suspect. And then came the hurricane.


I didn't think he was going to stick around for us to come back.


So the hurricane comes and goes and your suspect is quite literally in the wind.


He's gone.


For Detective Plumber, the twisted trail that had led him from Whidby Island, Washington, to South Florida began six months earlier, just after Christmas 2003. A GeoTracker, a small SUV, had been spotted in a secluded driveway in a remote section of Whidbey Island. Passenger door open. Dome light on.


The first thought was possibly a suicide. But on initial investigation, they couldn't find a weapon.


Standing in the damp December cold, the detective took stock. The body inside appeared to have been dead for 24 hours. ID found in the glove box indicated the dead man was named Russell Douglas. A ragged hole between his eyes had frozen. His age at 32, it was a robbery.


Whole lot of stuff left behind in the car that didn't make sense.


Just inside the driver's side door, an empty three and 180 caliber shell casing lay on the floor. The detective thought it was a curious place for a homicide, near the end.


Of a dead end road, parked into bushes as though he meant to be there with his car in gear, his emergency brake on and casually dressed in flip flops.


Sounds like he was there to meet someone.


That was the only thing that really made sense to us.


But who? The detective hoped Russell Douglas'widow. Brenna Douglas might shed some light on that. But that night, when he told her the father of her two children had been murdered, the detective says he got a strange feeling.


I never try to judge how people are going to react when I tell them things. But her response wasn't what I expected.


As in not emotional enough.


She wasn't shocked, at least not visually shocked. It was a bit matter of fact. And that did leave us at least wondering when we walked out of the house. Yes.


And so Brenna Douglas, as the wives of murdered men often do, became a person of interest. The domestic situation seemed unsettled.


They were separated. Russell was living in an apartment in Renton. According to Brenna, they were trying to work it out, talking about getting back together, in fact.


The new widow told the detective that her husband had spent the holidays with her and the kids.


She said the last time she saw him was the morning of December 26. He left the house somewhere midmorning, and she thought he was going to run some errands.


Brennan douglas have an alibi?


She didn't need an alibi at the time we went to talk to her. It was basically a death notification. She was able to answer our questions for us.


Who didn't like Russell Douglas?


Nobody could think of someone who really, truly didn't like him.


As Whitter turned to spring, the detective's investigation seemed to be going nowhere. But a routine check of the numbers in Russell Douglas'cell phone had yielded a tiny clue.


There were a few phone calls to a number with a Las Vegas area code, and we made a phone call to that number. There was no answer. I went to an answering machine.


It was the cell phone voicemail or was a person's voice.


It was a cell phone voicemail for a woman named Peggy.


Peggy. That's a name you'll hear again. The detective made a mental note to have that number traced. But within minutes of hanging up, his.


Phone rang, and there was a female who said she had just gotten a phone call from that number, and she identified herself as Peggy Thomas, explained that she was a friend of Brenna and Russell Douglas.


Peggy Thomas told the detective she'd been visiting friends over the holidays and explained that she had simply contacted Russell in order to pass along a present for Brenna.


She answered all of my questions to my satisfaction. There was nothing about that phone call that made me include her in the suspect list.


But then again, the detective's suspect list was essentially a blank page. There were no names on it from Florida or Nevada or New Mexico or any of the other places this investigation would eventually lead him. At least not yet.


Coming up, the investigation begins close to home, with the dead man's on again, off again wife.


You don't want to believe the mother of your grandkids would ever be a.


Suspect, but a wife as a potential person of interest is just the beginning. In this cross country tale of love gone wrong.


Death never takes a holiday. As a nurse, Gail O'Neill knows that better than most. Still, she was unprepared for the news that greeted her when she returned home from a late shift two days after Christmas 2003.


The minute I opened the door, I saw my husband on the phone. And it was like something hit me in the pit of the stomach just by his face. And then he said, Russell's gone.


Gone where? As far as Gail knew, her son's rocky marriage was on the mend.


And I'm thinking, so is this another drama filled call from Brenna that they had another argument or something? And what Bob had done is just repeated the words that Brenna had given him was that Russell had been killed. And then all I could do was just go sit down and just sit there for a while.


Russell's sister Holly got the same call from Russell's wife. She instantly assumed Russell's personal troubles were to blame.


My first thought was that he had probably committed suicide. So I was in shock and then realized I needed to get over to the island for Brennan the kids.


An Alaskan bush pilot delivered the news in person to Russell's father Jim, who was in the wilderness hunting and unreachable by phone.


He said your son's dead. And I had to say, of course, which one?


And Russell. And, I mean, he didn't know a whole lot about anything other than he knew it was important to get me out of there.


Russell's brother Matt was the last to know. He, too, had been out of cell phone range for several days while vacationing in British Columbia.


We drove across the border in our friend's vehicle, and my phone had a seizure. It started buzzing for every voicemail message and text message that had been sent. And it's Matt. Call me, Matt. Call me, Matt. Call me.


Within days of his death, russell Douglas's far flung family reunited on Whidby Island.


We rallied around Brenna.


We're sleeping on the floor in the living room.


She stayed in our bedroom a lot. She definitely was, like, sad. Nothing seemed to be getting done. And so I kind of ended up taking over the organization of the house. What do we do for meals?


Russell Douglas had left behind a lot of unfinished business. The oldest of three children born to Jim and Gail before they divorced, russell had been a late bloomer. But adulthood intruded early. Shortly after he started dating Brenna, she became pregnant. Marriage and parenthood did little to help him mature.


I think he was mourning and missing being an 18 year old who had a lot of dates and drank and went out with the guys. And, yeah, he did a little of that in college, but not a lot.


Russell and Brenna fought often over children, money, and Russell's affairs with other women.


She had called me after a really rough, supposedly argument, and I said, well, is he hurting you? Is he hitting you? And she said no. Really? He isn't physical. It's just emotional and verbal. But I've hit him a couple times.


Earlier that year, Russell had separated from Brenna. He'd taken an apartment near Seattle and had a new girlfriend for his family. The ongoing drama of Russell's life was exhausting.


He stopped talking to basically all of us. I think he was so angry with the whole situation. He just saying, I'm cutting off everything.


But then just after Thanksgiving, all that seemed to change. Russell had recently changed jobs and was close to completing an online master's degree program. And as Christmas approached, russell reached out to family members and told his brother Matt that he wanted to reconcile with his wife.


He said, you know, I think I need to start doing the right things. Brennan wants me back, I want her back. I want to be involved in the kid's life.


Then, for reasons they could not fathom, their son, their big brother was dead. And the family became defensive when detectives suggested that Russell's wife Brenna may have had something to do with his murder.


You don't want to believe that anybody that you've known for that long or is a mother of your grandkids, whatever, be a suspect.


So Gail offered to help her daughter in law hire a lawyer.


One of the detectives seemed a little strong armed, and I said, you know, you also need to get an attorney for all of your business affairs, so let me see if I can find somebody for you.


The financial picture for Brenna and the children was murky. Russell and Brenna had filed for bankruptcy a few years earlier. And though Brenna owned her own hair salon in this upscale shopping center, russell had handled the business end of things. If there was a bright spot during those dismal days, it was that Russell Douglas did have some life insurance.


I think when it comes down to it, he had a total of three life insurance policies, each one a couple hundred thousand dollars.


I want to say, in fact, the face value of those policies was more than half a million dollars. That money would come in handy, particularly since Brenna was under pressure to buy the house she'd been renting from a woman who used to work at her hair salon. The landlady's name was Peggy. Peggy Thomas. In those last dying days of 2003, russell Douglas's family had no idea how large that name would loom for them in the months and years to come.


Coming up, detectives get a call from a mystery man who says he knows who the killer is. But getting him to talk won't be easy. It sounds like he's afraid for his own life. He said, if I told you what I know, the shooter is going to know that I told you when dateline continues.


By the spring of 2004, detective Mark Plumber had been working the phones and knocking on doors for months, but getting nowhere.


I actually decided to just start over and do the entire investigation from step one all over again.


He had a murder at a good address on his hands, and many more questions than answers. What had brought Russell Douglas to this remote area of Whidbey Island on the day after Christmas? Who put a bullet between his eyes and why?


We ran out every lead I could run out, and none of them connected to Russell Douglas.


Money, love, pride. Talk to homicide detectives. They say those themes come up all the time.


All the time.


Any of that seemed to fit.


We did find that Russell had several hundred thousand dollars in life insurance on him. Obviously, like you said, money's a motive. Love is a motive, pride is a.


Motive for the detective. Those factors seem to point in the direction of Russell's wife, Brenna Douglas. Not only had she been cheated on and publicly humiliated by Russell, but she was the named beneficiary of three life insurance policies he'd taken out on himself. The problem was, Brenna's alibi was solid. There were plenty of people who could confirm that they'd been with her at the time Russell Douglas was killed. The detective knew he needed a break. And in July 2004, exactly seven months to the day after the murder of Russell Douglas, he got one.


I was actually out canvassing and interviewing again and I got a phone call that said we had had a tip on the Russell Douglas homicide.


Plumberg's partner on the investigation, Mike Beach, took the call.


He just said, hey, I'm just calling to see if you have any unsolved homicides from December 2003. And I said, well, yes, sir, we actually have two in December of 2003. Which one are you referring to? And he says, the guy who got shot in the head.


Beach says he didn't know if the caller was the killer or someone related to the killer, but he knew he didn't want to lose him.


I'm doing everything I can to keep this gentleman on the phone because at that point, he still hadn't given me his name.


The caller was using an untraceable calling card, and on the phone he seemed nervous.


He said, if I told you what I know, the shooter is going to know that I told you.


That first call lasted more than an hour, but the cops learned neither the name of the caller nor the killer.


He was still afraid to develop to give us any more information. So I'm doing everything I can to gain his trust, just to keep talking to him.


The informant agreed a call again the next day, and this time he was more forthcoming.


He started telling me that I needed to look for a girlfriend of the shooter that was from Las Vegas. He kept saying, the shooter's where I am.


The caller told Beech that he was a retired Air force serviceman and played in a band with the shooter. The shooter, he said, was his best friend.


I asked him again to call the next day and he said, I have to work, but I can call on Thursday. And I said, okay, well, I'll be here waiting. And he almost whispered, the shooter's, Jim Huden.


Jim Huden. In the age of Google, that was all the break Mark Plumberg needed. By the end of the day, the detectives knew that Jim Huughten lived in South Florida and played in a band. And according to the band's website, one of its members was retired Air Force. And so the next time the caller phoned, detective beach was ready.


He was asking me, were you able to do anything with what I gave you? And I said, well, yeah, but I think I'm looking at a picture of you. And the phone went quiet. And he goes, you guys are good. We're not good. It was just simple Google searching.


At last, the detectives had a solid lead, one that raised plenty of questions. Who was this Jim Hewden, and why was their tipster so willing to give him up? The cops knew the answers to those questions could not be found in a Google search. They would have to fly to southwest Florida at a time of year when violent storm clouds always seemed to lurk just over the horizon.


Coming up, was this a case of love turned lethal? Detectives learn about an affair between this.


Beauty queen she was a whole lot of gorgeous woman.


And a guitar man with a dark side.


Jim at one point, had told me that he wanted to know what it felt like to kill somebody.


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Nearly 500 years ago, a middle aged Spaniard came to this part of Florida searching for the fountain of Youth. Ponce de Leon never found it, but in 1992, it seems Jim Huden did. Like de Leon, Hughen was a middle aged wanderer. But unlike the conquistador, the locals loved Jim Huden. Jim was always a happy go lucky.


Fun guy, and he was just a wonderful human being.


Very witty guy, just charming. Everybody loved him.


A native of Washington State, Huden's first fans in Punta Gorda were customers at his computer store. Former mayor Marilyn Mooney was one of those.


He was brilliant with computers. In fact, you could go in there and they would build a computer for you.


But it was Hughen's band, buck Naked and the exhibitionists BNX for short, that made him one of the most popular people in Punta Gorda. Tim Goodman played keyboards in the band.


We had two names to decide on. It was Buck Naked and the exhibitionists or less Moore and the contradictions. So we picked Buck Naked, but he came up with both names. I mean, that's the way his brain worked.


He's a brilliant guy.


Bill Hill, the band's bass player, says Huden was also a guy who never liked to let wives or girlfriends get in the way of a good time.


I had a lot of fun.


Safe to say that you were kind of his wingman. He covered for you, you covered for him.


Yes, indeed.


Golden oldies like Wilson Pickett 634-5789 were the band's bread and butter. Lead singer Al Holland used to perform with the Platters. He said that whenever Buck Naked played, people would dance.


We would pack the place every single Friday and Saturday night and it would just be one very big party.


Must have been fun to be part of the big band in town.


It was. Oh, yeah, it was.


The band was so hot, in fact, that Jim, hewton eventually turned over the computer store to his top assistant, Gene Spender, so he could concentrate on music.


I kind of pushed him towards doing that because I knew that was his love and that's where he was most happy.


Were you in love with him?


Very much so. I love that man very much.


So much so that in December 2001, after six years of living together, gene and Jim got married in Las Vegas.


And I was asked by Jean if I would walk her down the aisle.


Was she happy?


Oh, yeah. All smiles. Both of them were all smiles.


But the smiles did not last long. In June 2002, Jim Huden returned here to Washington State for the funeral of an old friend. And it was here that fate intervened. A tall, red haired beauty caught Jim's eye. It was the beginning of a love triangle, one that would wreck the lives of all the people who were involved and some who were not. The woman in question was Peggy Thomas, a whidbey island hairstylist who also dabbled in beauty pageants. In fact, in 2001, Thomas represented the state of Washington in a Las Vegas pageant, winning the evening gown competition. Leslie Berkeland got to know Peggy Thomas a few years earlier when she was just breaking into the beauty pageant circuit. Berkland, who was once on the reality TV show Big Rich Texas I still.


Consider myself new to Dallas, says Peggy.


Thomas was working as an auto mechanic at the time.


You couldn't not notice Peggy because she was a whole lot a gorgeous woman.


Would you say she's a typical pageant contestant?


No, not in 1998. Here's this beautiful, volumptuous, redhead, gorgeous woman and she was a mechanic. She had this guy kind of job. It just sort of added to her sex appeal.


Though Jean says she knew nothing of her husband's budding affair at the time, she did notice that he had returned from his friend's funeral a changed man secretive, sullen and withdrawn.


I think Jim's sister in law had mentioned Peggy to me and I didn't quite put two and two together. She's made some comment about them being there at the funeral and it just didn't click because I didn't want to acknowledge it.


Jean says she later found emails and letters from this Peggy and that the woman even called her home looking for Jim. But Jean says that Jim told her peggy was simply a music contact who could get him gigs in Las Vegas. Worrisome, to be sure, but Jean says it was her husband's heavy drinking that really had her concerned.


He started drinking constantly at home, know, drinking to obliterate himself, basically to numb himself. And then he started making trips out west.


Did you at the time think that there was another woman?


No, I had no idea.


There is, of course, no cure for willful blindness. But Bill Hill Huden's faithful wingman knew the truth about those out of town trips because sometimes he'd been along for the ride.


We came out to Las Vegas. The reason he asked me to go was to cover for him.


He was seeing Peggy?




Tell me about Jim's relationship with Peggy.


Oh, it was all love and kisses.


Really? More so than with Jean, who was waiting for him back home? Yes. Before long, other band members say that they, too, began seeing the same changes in Jim that troubled Gene heavy drinking and erratic behavior.


You go through a fifth of Crown Royal in the night, and one night I'm calling chord changes to the bass player, and he hollers at me in the middle of a song. Quit criticizing the bass player, or something like that. And I hollered back at him, why don't you just keep your mouth quiet? I'm doing my job over here. And he shut his guitar off and walked off stage, which is about the most unprofessional thing you can do.


After that, the band's days were numbered, and seemingly so were the days of Gene Hugon's marriage. But Gene says the drinking and philandering were not the worst of it.


Jim at one point, had told me that he wanted to know what it felt like to kill somebody.


He told you that he had wanted to know that?




His deep, dark secrets.


And you say what? Sure. Great idea, honey.


I didn't know what to say.


Who would? Gene could only guess at what was behind this sudden change.


He lost his dad when he was, I believe, 1011 years old, and his mom dated a series of men throughout that were abusive drunks. And he saw his mom get beat up many, many times. He wasn't able to do anything, and he always swore he would get this guy. But the man who mostly beat her has since passed away.


Jean didn't know if something back in Washington had triggered her husband's black moods, but she says she remained determined to pull him through.


I loved that man more than life itself. At the time, I was so in love with him, I thought he was the one.


Even though he was in the process of treating you like dirt.


Right. I was hoping there he could be salvaged.


Then came the day in June 2003, when the cold, hard facts of her husband's affair could no longer be denied, jim moved out, telling Jean that he needed a change of scenery for his music. Gene knew better.


It's like they're going back to see Peggy. I was like, go. Get out. Don't ever come back again. And he didn't want to hear that. He still wanted me to be hanging on while he had Peggy as well.


That moment of clarity, it turns out, was short lived. All that summer, while Jim Hewden set up housekeeping with Peggy and her two daughters out in Las Vegas, jean says her husband kept her dangling with promises that his dalliance with Peggy Thomas was over. He'd soon be home, he told her. And for Jean, that was a reason to believe I thought there was some hope.


I didn't want to let go.


And for a brief moment in September of 2003, jean says it looked as if her perseverance would pay off. Jim invited her out to Las Vegas for her 40th birthday. For several days, he whined and dined her. But her dreams of a happy ending, she says, vanished when her husband turned to her in bed one night and told her he intended to make his darkest dreams come true. There was a man out in Washington, he told her, who needed to die.


Coming up not the kind of thing a wife wants to hear, but Jean has an even bigger shock coming.


It was like getting kicked in the stomach. Life as I knew it was over at that point.


When Dateline continues.


They say that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. No one wanted that slogan to be true more than Jean. Hewden did. Especially since Vegas was where her husband had told her he intended to kill a complete stranger. He wanted to know what it would feel like to kill someone?




Nobody's ever said that to me before.


Yeah, me either.


But this was not to be a thrill killing. According to Jean, her husband believed murdering the victim he had in mind would be a kind of public service.


He just said he beat his children and beat his wife and didn't take care of his family. And just an abusive made him sound.


Exactly like the guy that Jim had grown up. Exactly what did Jim say he was going to do?


Well, he said that Peggy's friend Brennan had approached him and that she would share the insurance money with him.


Murder for hire.




Did you try to talk him out of this?


I did.


I thought he was just talking. I was just hoping he would get over it.


It had been a tough year for Mr. And Mrs. Huden. The death of a childhood friend had sent Jim Huden spinning off into a hall of Fame worthy midlife crisis that ran the gamut from alcoholism and adultery to vague notions of murder.


I just didn't think he would follow. Through with it. I mean, he didn't even know how to shoot a gun.


By Christmas 2003, things seemed to have hit rock bottom. Instead of returning home with Gene after their romantic reunion in Las Vegas, jim had stayed out west. Did you think he was with Maggie at that point?


I thought so, yeah. I mean, I knew what was going on, and I knew it was over. And there was no point in confronting him because he would lie about it anyway.


Abandoned and alone, jean spent the holidays waiting for word from Jim. Then, in early January, Jean says her phone rang. Her husband was on the line. But Jim, hewton wasn't calling to wish his wife a happy New Year. According to Jean, he was calling to tell her that dreams do come true. He had killed a man in cold blood.


He just said it was done and he's coming back.


The murder?




What'd you say?


I think I was speechless at the time. I think I asked if he was okay, and does anyone know or are they after you, or I just basically asked if he was okay.


Your husband had just confessed that he.


Had committed a murder for just it was like getting kicked in the was. I knew life as I knew it was over at that point.


Jean says her husband drove through the night, pulling into their garage in Punta Gorda after dark. The next day.


He basically told me how they had lured Russell to a certain spot on the island and how he came out of some bushes and walked up to him and just shot him in the head. And he made it sound know, it was kind of gentle and peaceful and, know, his head just tilted over and he walked away.


Jim had told you that he had this dark secret, that he wanted to know what it would be like to kill someone. Did it live up to his expectations?


Well, at first, he said for a few days, he felt like a big man, and it was exhilarating. And he thought he had accomplished something and rid the world of someone who didn't need to be there anymore. But then it started to close in on him, and then he wasn't such a big man. And know, he knew he had made a terrible mistake.


Based on what Jim told you, did Brennan Douglas offer any shred of proof that her husband was abusive? Or did Jim just kind of commit that murder? Pretty much on faith?


Pretty much on faith, as far as I knew, because I've come to find out later. There are no records of know, there are no reports of domestic abuse, as far as I understand.


After laying low for a while, jean says jim gradually started picking up the pieces of his old life in Punta Gorda. As the weeks passed, Jean says she even allowed herself to think that perhaps the ugliness of the past two years was in the past. That is, until the April day when a tall, red headed stranger appeared on her doorstep.


Jim was doing a local radio show here in the morning, and I was at home, and there's a knock on the door, and I opened the door, and it's Peggy Thomas standing on my doorstep.


In that icy instant, Jim Hewden's complicated double life collapsed. As the women talk, Jean says it became clear that both had been lied to. Both believed Jim was done with the other and committed to them.


He was playing us both for quite some time, trying to keep us both apart from each other.


So there you are with Peggy, and Jim's not there. For how long?


Not long, because I called the radio station and suggested he get home real fast. He stopped the show and came home, and Peggy and I are sitting there on the couch.


How did he look?


Not good.


So what happens at that meeting?


There was a lot of yelling.


The two of you yelling at Jim or at each other?


A little of both. I mean, I was yelling at her because she knew he was married.


She's saying what? I was led to believe that there's nothing left of your marriage.


It was like a knife in the heart. It was. And at that point, he needed to make a choice. And he said he was going to stay with me.


Although Jean says Peggy agreed to leave them in peace and return to Las Vegas, a few weeks later, she was back, this time showing up unannounced at a reunion gig for Jim's old band, Buck Naked. And the exhibitionists. Bill Hill says the moment he saw her face in the audience, he knew it was trouble. Trouble because shortly after returning to Punta Gorda, jim Huden had told him that Peggy had helped Jim murder a man who reminded Jim of someone he'd known as a child. A man who'd allegedly beaten and abused Jim's mother.


He says, I would have done him in if he was still alive. And he says, I found a person that met his description. As far as abusiveness, I says yeah. He says, Well, I shot him in the head and killed him.


No chance that he was kidding or not telling the truth.


I knew he was telling the truth. He says Peggy found a person that supposedly was abusive, and it happened to be the husband of a woman that owned the hair salon in Whidbee Island.


I believe, where Peggy worked.


Where Peggy worked? Yes.


So Peggy knew all about this. She helped him for five months. Bill Hill says he struggled under the weight of that confession. Then, in late July 2004, his conscience finally got the better of him.


I decided to make my first call. Your first call to Whitby Island?


To the police?


Yes, to the island county sheriffs felt guilty. I was giving up, my friend. But I knew something had to be done.


Within days of that call, detectives Mark Plumberg and Mike beach were sitting face to face with both their tipster, bill hill, and their suspect, the artist formerly known as buck naked.


Coming up, the interrogation gets tough. You know what you've told bill? The guy's falling apart over the guilt he's carrying around because you told him what you did. Will Jim crack, or will detectives realize they've got the wrong man?


For seven months after Russell Douglas was shot between the eyes, police had little more to go on than a corpse and an empty shell casing. With their case at a dead end, Whidbee island detectives desperately wanted to believe that Bill hill, the tipster who had led them to Florida, was something other than a crackpot with an axe to grind.


When we first landed in Florida, we met with Bill hill, confirmed the story. We wanted to meet him face to face, obviously.


What was his mood?


He was a bit nervous. I think he was still in that mode where he knew he was turning in his best friend.


Once again, bill hill told the detectives what he knew, that his best friend Jim hewton, had told him he'd killed a man in Whidbee island, and that Hugon's girlfriend, Peggy thomas, had helped set up the whole thing with the knowledge of the victim's wife. It was a compelling story. But with no murder weapon or any other physical evidence connecting Jim Hewden to the murder of Russell Douglas, the detectives were no closer to being able to make an arrest.


The next day, we decide we have no cards other than to just go talk to Jim Hewden and see what he'll say to us.


After arranging to have a second team of detectives visit Peggy Thomas simultaneously in Las Vegas, the detectives drove over to Jim Huden's house. Jean answered the door.


I showed her my badge, my ID. And said I was from island county, Washington.


Jim was there?


Yes. He was sitting on the couch, and.


He says, what what's island county, washington doing all the way here in Florida?


Oddly enough, he didn't say anything like that.


The detective didn't beat around the bush.


And I looked him right in the face and I said, mr. Hugon, I know you're the man who pulled the trigger and killed Russell Douglas. And his only response was to say, I don't know why someone would say that. I was sure at that moment I was in the room with the right.


Man because an innocent man would say, well, you're crazy. I didn't kill him or anybody else. I don't know what you're talking about.


He never once made a denial of my accusation.


Hugon admitted to being on Whidbee island with Peggy Thomas over the Christmas holidays, but denied ever owning a gun. He admitted to having briefly met Russell Douglas, but said it was only to drop off a present at his apartment near Seattle for brenna from Peggy.


I asked if he'd be willing to come down to the police station with us. I said we'd like to get your story on tape. He agreed.


He's under no obligation to do that.


He doesn't have to go anywhere with us.


You gonna soda or?


I'm fine. Alright.




If the coffee's ever done, I'd sure likes to make coffee.


Once again, with tape rolling, jim Hewden freely admitted to being in Washington at the time of the crime, to meeting Russell Douglas there, and to being a lousy two timing husband. But that's where Jim Huden drew the line.


I'm a son of a bitch, but I'm no killer. But I'm a son of a bitch.


For nearly an hour, the interview covered old ground with occasional interruptions from detectives in Las Vegas who were at that very moment, grilling Huden's girlfriend, Peggy Thomas.


I think Peggy's reaction is going to be my guys out there. I'd be surprised if it's any different than mine.


And he was right. Like Jim, Peggy wasn't giving the police anything in her interview, so Detective Mike Beech decided to shake things up. But would this tactic get Jim to talk?


Coming up, it's Peggy's turn to be interrogated.


Will she give up her lover?


And said, you know what? Just know that I love you. You're never going to see me. You're here for me again.


And Peggy herself, she's on to the next man. The biggest mistake I ever made in my life. I mean, she's evil. And the whole case goes south with the manhunt in Mexico when Dateline continues.


Florida musician James Huden was in the middle of an intense interrogation with detectives from Whidbee Island, Washington regarding the murder of Russell Douglas. Then came a question investigators thought would certainly get Jim's attention.


Who's Bill Hill? That is a friend of mine that lives here. Bass player. Is that surprising that I brought up that name? Yes. Why? Because you're from Whigbee island. Would it surprise you that I've been talking to him almost daily for the last week and a half? Yeah, what surprised me, I just wanted to see a reaction. Up until that point, he was playing it pretty cool and I think I got the reaction I was hoping for. It kind of deflated him a bit. So we're in truth or dare time. Jim, you know what? You've told Bill he's your best friend in the whole world. The guy's fallen apart over this. Literally falling apart over the guilt he's carrying around because you told him what you did. I don't buy that. For.


If revealing Bill Hill as their source was intended to shock Jim Hewden into confessing, it failed. With no murder weapon, no warrant, and no authority to make an arrest in the state of Florida, the detectives had to let their primary suspect go free. Were you worried at all about Bill Hill? Now you've disclosed that he's the source of all this.


We made sure before we went back to Washington that Bill understood that we had to give his name. But my hope was that Jim Hewden would be far too worried about his own skin than to have to worry about taking retribution on Bill Hill.


Easy for him to say. Bill Hill remembers being terrified when he heard that his former friend now knew that he'd been the one who'd called the police.


Oh, yeah. Scared to death watching your back. Oh, yeah.


That terror was amplified a few days later when Hurricane Charlie, which had been churning up the Gulf, suddenly made an unexpected turn and slammed into Punta Gorda. Packing 150 miles an hour winds, charlie leveled parts of town, taking out electricity and giving plenty of COVID to someone like Jim Huden, who might want revenge.


I slept on the couch in the living room with Method 57 under the pillow.


Literally. Because you thought Jim was coming?




How'd you sleep?


Not very good.


As it turns out, though, the detective was right. Jim, Hewden had plenty on his plate and no intention of sticking around. In the days after two Whidbee Island detectives knocked on his door and accused him of murder, the man who had once performed under the name Buck Naked suddenly felt very exposed. Jean Hewden says her husband was sure of only two things the cops would be back, and he had no intention of ever wearing prison orange.


He told me, you will never see me in a jumpsuit, meaning jail or prison clothes. He's like, no. He had every intention of killing himself before it came to that.


Which brings us back to that hurricane, hurricane Charlie. Jean says that after the storm passed, jim asked her to drive him to Miami. He told her he wanted to spend one last night alone, drinking and gambling in a casino there before he committed suicide.


And I'd left him with about $4,000 on a bunch of pills, and he was going to go off and take himself out somewhere.


You were crying?


I was hysterical.


Was he crying?


Yes, he was. He was. And so I drove away thinking that was the last time I was ever going to see him. And then I would be getting a knock on the door asking me to identify his body.


For weeks, Jean says she waited amid the ruins of her storm ravaged home for word of Jim's fate. She assumed he was dead. And that's what she told the Whidby Island cops when they called to follow up.


There were several messages on the know from them. And I called him back and I told him what would happen. It's like, well, now you've got your man. He's dead. And there you go. Case of salt.


But shortly after telling the police that Jim had probably killed himself, the phone rang again. It was Greyhound Bus Lines in Houston, Texas.


They found a bag that was left on the bus with Jim's name on it with a bottle of Crown Royal, his clothes, and a gun in it.


How long? When did you hear from him?


I got a phone call from my attorney saying that they had heard from Jim and that Jim was at a motel down in Houston.


The lawyer put Jean in touch with Jim and filled her in on his latest plan, a plan that could only succeed if Jean agreed to send Jim money.


His plan was to get across the border and go from there. And so I sent him yet more money and allowed him to get out.


Of the country, which wasn't, at that point a crime, since there were no.


Charges against at this point, no.


And here's where our story takes another bizarre turn. While Jean Hughton, the wife Jim had cheated on for years, was willing to stand by her man and help him escape to Mexico, police learned that Peggy Thomas, jim Huughten's lover and alleged accomplice, was now willing to give him up.


I'm not involved in this.


In this interview with detectives, peggy Thomas said that in a phone call shortly before he fled to Mexico, jim had confessed to killing Russell Douglas.


He said, I'm sorry. I love you. I never meant for you to be involved in this. But I did it. I did it when I went for cigarettes, I said, It can't be. And they said, you know what? Just know that I love you. You're never going to see me. You're here for me again.


With Jim gone and no evidence tying Peggy to the murder, the detectives asked the public's help in documenting the couple's movements. In December 2003, when Russell Douglas was.


Murdered, we put out descriptions of the vehicle that they were driving. Just a few days after it hit the media, we got a phone call from the Donna Ana County Sheriff's office in New Mexico saying someone had turned in as a firearm that they believed might have been used in a homicide on Whidbey Island. Talk about Locke doesn't get any better than that.


The gun came from a former Las Vegas sheriff's deputy who'd recently retired to New Mexico. The deputy had known Jim Huughton and Peggy Thomas in Las Vegas. And in October 2003, the deputy said Hugon had come to his house and asked to be shown how to shoot the gun. According to the deputy, the next time he saw either Hugon or the gun was in January 2004, when Jim Hughton handed it to him in a paper bag and asked him to hold it for safekeeping.


We took the weapon for testing, and it was matched to the shell casing from the tracker and also matched to the slug that was pulled from Russell's brain.


The murder weapon.


That's the murder weapon.


And you have a guy telling you that Jim, Hewden gave it to him, right?


Not just that Jim Hewden gave it to him, but that he taught Jim Hewden to fire the weapon and that Jim Hewden gave it back to him just a few days after the murder of Russell Douglas.


If you didn't that information before you went to Florida, you could have brought Jim Heughten back in cops.


You bet.


Instead, now you've got the proof and Jim Huden's nowhere to be found.


Right? We have all we need. Now we just need Jim. Coming up with Jim out of the picture, his lover, Peggy Thomas meets a new man, a millionaire cowboy who is about to be taken for a wild ride. I looked in her eyes and I mean, she is evil.


For nine months, the mystery of who killed Russell Douglas and why weighed on his family. Then, as it often does in this story, a ringing phone brought momentous news.


I got the call from the prosecutor who said, I'm telling you first that they thought they knew who it was.


Jim Huughten's name meant nothing to Russell's family, but the name of Huden's girlfriend, Peggy Thomas, did.


Peggy Thomas is the owner of the home that Russell and Brenna rented that they had a verbal agreement that they were going to buy if they could just come up with the capital.


Given that Brenna was the named beneficiary on Russell's life insurance policies, russell's family wondered if his death was in some way part of a real estate deal.


I guess some of our family members kept thinking, did Peggy maybe do this or set this all up? Because she thought that if Brenna got insurance money, she would buy the house and Peggy would then have that instant cash.


Peggy Thomas appeared to be the only link between Jim Hewden and Russell Douglas. And it wasn't just a circumstantial connection either. On page 14 of the murder weapons owner's manual, investigators had found a fingerprint belonging to Peggy Thomas. Troubling. But what concerned Russell Douglas's brother and sister most was the fact that Brenna didn't appear to be the least bit upset about the prospect of her friend Peggy being involved in her husband's murder.


You've worked with her and you're not saying a know if it was your friend. Something either disbelief or I can't believe my friend did this. I want to make sure that know.


Let's go after.


Let's get. I said, you know, when you were really mad at Russ, did you ever say to Peggy while you guys were working together that Russ had some insurance money and that he'd be better to you dead than alive? And she said, well, I might have. And at that point, I just kind of looked at her and I thought, man, did this not give somebody a motive somewhere along the line?


Was this a case of angry words having unintended consequences? Or, as some suspected, had Brenna actively recruited Russell's killers? The family couldn't know for sure. But that question now complicated their relationship with brenna and the grandchildren, and we've.


Tried to be as supportive as we could, especially for the kids. But I know she listens in on all their conversations. So it's a very controlled conversation.


But when it comes to awkward telephone conversations, none could have been more strained than the ones that took place between Jim Huden's lover and Jim Huden's wife after he fled to Mexico. You called her first, or she called you?


No, she called me.


And what did she want to talk about?


Well, she wanted to know how much the cops had been bugging me and what they knew and if I had heard from Jim or anything like that.


And you what, told her?


I told her what the cops had said ever, but I didn't tell her anything about Jim.


Why'd you not hang up the phone?


I don't know. I don't know.


I mean, this isn't even Jim. This is Jim's mistress.


Yeah, I know. I'm an idiot.


But that's not all. Jean says that she was able to stay in contact with Jim while he was in Mexico, and that Jim asked her to fly out to Vegas to meet with Peggy face to face and keep her in the loop.


We did have Jim in common. I never told her where he was. I did tell her that, you know, he was okay. It was just very weird. I mean, we went out and had drinks and saw a band, and I really found it hard to hate her as much as I wanted to.


As months passed and Jim Huughten's trail grew colder, the lives of the women who had loved him took drastically divergent paths, while Jean grew steadily poorer, supporting Jim, the ever resourceful Peggy, now a limo driver in Vegas, hit the jackpot in 2007. One of her fairs turned out to be this man, Mark Allen, a New Mexico horse breeder and heir to an oil fortune.


The limo people asked me, do you want some guy or the ex Mrs. Washington? I'll take the ex Mrs. Washington.


Five months after meeting Peggy Thomas, alan says he asked her to marry him.


The biggest mistake I ever made in my life.


Within months of moving to his New Mexico ranch, alan says Peggy was nosing her way into his horse business, pressing him to fire longtime employees and hire friends of Know.


She wanted her people to do the accounting and stuff.


When he refused, Alan says the man magnet turned into a man eater.


She'd get on know. It was like a man getting on you. She's a pretty good sized woman. I looked in her eyes, and, I mean, she's evil. She is evil.


But if Peggy Thomas married well, she divorced even better. Allen says he gave her money and an 80 foot houseboat just to go away.


The divorce took way longer than the marriage did.


Looking back, Mark Allen says he should have known better. He says a few days before their wedding, Peggy let him in on a little secret.


She said that she was accused of being involved in a murder and that her ex boyfriend had killed the guy. She said, But I didn't have nothing to do with it. And I said, well, did you take a lie detector? She said no. My lawyer told me not to. And I went, if you're innocent, why wouldn't you take a lie detector? And she never gave me a good answer.


It should be noted that although Mark Allen says his brief marriage to Peggy Thomas cost him dearly, she did give him at least one chuckle. In 2009, after one of his horses won the Kentucky Derby, allen said he saw Peggy quoted in the press.


Well, she said she was down here training horses and braiding horses. Peggy can't even step up on a horse. Coming up, whatever happened to Jim the Fugitive from justice and his wife Jean?


I was getting ready to leave and not be able to come back to this country for the rest of my life.


Torn between joining Jim on the Lamb and turning him in, which would she choose? When Dateline continues, reward your staff and.


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By the spring of 2011, Russell Douglas had been dead for more than seven years. His suspected killer was still on the loose because the only person on Earth who knew his true whereabouts wasn't talking to detectives.


I mean, they've been watching me for years. They've tapped my phone, and police were.


Pretty sure that you were still in contact with Jam.


Well, sure, they had a good idea.


And they were right.


Of course they were.


The man no longer known as Buck Naked had been able to build a new life for himself in Mexico and.


Even played the occasional gig he's in Veracruz, Mexico. I actually went down there a few times to see him and, of course, to bring him more money. He was teaching music to kids in the music school down there. I'd fly up to Dulles airport and then out to Kansas and then to Mexico City and change planes so they couldn't track how I was going, how I was getting to him, or we'd meet in other know. I never flew directly to know, so they couldn't trace know to get to him.


But that kind of devotion doesn't come cheap. Jim's life on the lamb has taken a toll on Jean's health, and it's devoured the inheritance she received when her mother died.


The man cost me everything I had. I spent every dime I had. I lost my house. I lost my livelihood. Sorry.


And yet, after her father died in 2007, jean says she seriously considered joining her husband in Mexico, where he was known as maestro Jim and sharing his life as a fugitive.


I knew what border crossing I was taking. I had a new ID. I was getting ready to leave and not be able to come back to this country for the rest of my life.


Maybe you could have died in a shootout with exactly.


You know, it probably would have happened because, who knows? He probably would have taken me out next.


That did not happen for one reason. Just days before she planned to join Jim, jean met this man, Bill Brunner, and fell in love.


And he finally made me see what foolish thing that would be to do. And for some reason, I listened to Bill, and now he saved my life, basically.


So love kind of wrecked your life, and then love also saved your life.


Yeah, I guess it sure did.


Because of Bill, jean gave up her dream of rejoining Jim. Hewden. But it wasn't until the spring of 2011 that Bill Bruner convinced her to give up the addiction that was Jim.


I just finally had enough. I know Jim doesn't love me. He didn't care about me when he did what he did, and he still doesn't care about me, and probably even less so now that I'm out of money.


More than that, jean had herself gotten into some legal trouble. After Jim fled to Mexico in exchange for immunity from prosecution on some drug and check forgery charges, jean told authorities all she knew about the murder of Russell Douglas and just where Jim Hewden could be found.


They're not interested me them. They wanted Jim. They said they would not prosecute me, and I certainly hope they stick to their word.


In June 2011, Mexican authorities picked up the man variously known as buck naked or maestro Jim in Veracruz and quickly turned him over to waiting US. Marshals. When the plane carrying Jim back to Washington. State landed in Seattle, he was greeted by a familiar face. And you said what? Jim, nice to see you again.


I said, Jim, I'm not sure if you remember me, but I'm here to escort you back to Island County. I said, you're under no obligation to talk to me. And he immediately said, I don't want to.


Something he should have said years earlier.


Probably would have been a good idea.


For the foreseeable future, jim Huden would be wearing exactly the ensemble he had for so long sought to avoid. Immediately after Huden's arrest, detectives began trying to track down his former lover, Peggy Thomas. A routine computer data search led police to this lake in New Mexico where they discovered Peggy Thomas kept an 80 foot houseboat that she'd gotten in her divorce from Mark Allen.


They just said she was a really nice person, that she was single and that she had put the name off the hook on her boat due to the fact that she was single.


Bryce Currant, then a captain with the San Juan County Sheriff's Office, says Peggy Thomas was lured back to the marina with a bogus promise that there was a package waiting for her. Current says she didn't seem all that surprised when he placed her under arrest.


She had an attorney and that she'd.


Been waiting for this day and was.


Kind of ready to get it over with.


Peggy Thomas was all business, Currant says, and wasted none of her legendary charm on him.


No, just enough time for her to make fun of me, make fun of.


My braces and how young I looked.


She thought it'd be somebody older, she said.


After waiting seven long years, russell Douglas's family was elated that his suspected killers were in jail. But Russell's wife, not so much.


And I called Brenna and it was kind of a stunned silence for a little bit and then it was like, oh, well, good. But it was not the ecstatic, thank God. Something that I was really wanting to hear.


In July 2011, when Russell Douglas's family gathered in solidarity for Jim Hewden's first court appearance, russell's widow was conspicuously absent.


I asked her, I was like, are you going to go? She's like, why would I go? It doesn't concern me. It just didn't quite seem right.


It would take another year before Jim Huden and the wife of the man he was accused of killing sat in the same courtroom. And when they did, all eyes would be on her.


Coming up, Brenna Douglas. Could she have anything to do with.


The plot to kill her husband?


Well knows about this. Did he tell you? Yes, he did.


Jim Huden and Peggy Thomas were charged with the murder of Russell Douglas in the summer of 2011. From that moment, Whidby Island prosecutor Greg Banks had been hoping they would turn on each other and spill the details of what had happened on the day Russell was killed.


That was the plan.


But that didn't happen. Did not happen because why? They're still in love. They wouldn't rat on each other.


You know, if you get a chance to interview them, you could ask them.


Because Jean Huughton was still married to Jim, the prosecutor decided to split the case and try Jim and Peggy separately.


We needed Jean to testify against Peggy, but Washington has a rule that says you can't call the spouse against a defendant.


So if you try Jim and Peggy separately, gene can testify against Peggy.


Right. And we didn't need her against Jim.


And so in July 2012, more than a year after his wife had given him up, jim Hewden went on trial for the murder of Russell Douglas. The opening statement of the Island County prosecutors set the tone.


Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this case is about the assassination of Russell Douglas. The day after Christmas 2003, banks promised.


The jury that the evidence would show that Jim Hewden and an accomplice had lured Russell Douglas to his death with the promise of a Christmas gift for his wife, Brenna.


James Huden did not even know Russ Douglas, but his accomplice did.


Jim Huden, he declared, was the trigger man.


Mr. Hughden walked up to that car. He opened the door, he looked him right in the face, and at a distance of less than four inches, used a 380 semiautomatic handgun to put a bullet between his eyes.


The prosecutor began by calling the one person that police still believed knew more about this case than she was saying.


State calls Brenna Douglas.


Brenna Douglas, the dead man's widow. On the stand, Brenna identified a picture of Peggy Thomas and said they used to cut hair together. In 2003, she said she rented a house from Peggy.


Did you two become close?


Yeah, we'd talk. It was just girl talk stuff.


Did you talk about personal things with her?




According to Brenna, her rocky marriage to Russell Douglas was among the things she talked to Peggy Thomas about.


He had a lot of issues throwing furniture around and different things and how he treated the kids and I it just wasn't okay.


When you and Russ went through a separation, is that the sort of thing you might have talked to Peggy about?


Yeah, that I talked to most people about, probably too much.


And why do you say that? That you talk to most people too much. Are you a person who likes to share?


I just chat.


Brenna. Do you know James Huden?


I've met him, yes.


And how is it that you met Mr. Huden?


Through Peggy.


It was on that connection to Huden and those woman to woman conversations between Brenna and Peggy that the prosecutor based his theory of the murder. Brenna told Peggy her husband was violent, peggy told Jim and Jim pulled the trigger. The prosecutor explained why Mr. Huden pulled.


The trigger on Russell Douglas as a way of exercising his own personal demons.


That point was underscored when Huden's old bass player, Bill Hill, took the stand and told the court about the day Jim Hewden shared his darkest secret.


He says, I need to tell you about something that's on my mind.


As Jim Hewden clenched his teeth and stared daggers at his former close friend. Bill Hill continued, and he proceeded to.


Tell me that my stepfather that used to beat me and beat my mother and always have hated that man, wanted to find somebody else that fit that Mo. And then he said that they did find a person that fit and said that they murdered him.


In halting language, Hill told the same story he'd told police eight years earlier that Peggy Thomas aided in the execution of Russell Douglas, and that Russell's widow, Brenna had known about it.


I said, who all knows about this? Did he tell you? Yes, he he said the only people that knew was him, Peggy, his wife Jean, and the woman at the hair shop. That she didn't play much of a part, but she knew it was going to happen.


No evidence was offered to buttress that charge. No incriminating emails, no cell phone records, no suspicious money transfers. The question of Brenna Douglas's possible involvement in her husband's murder was simply left hanging in the air for everyone to ponder.


State's. Next witness is Keith Ogden.


Next. The prosecutor presented the story of a gun. Keith Ogden, a retired Las Vegas lawman, told the court that Jim Hewton came to his home in late October 2003, just two months before Russell Douglas was killed, to talk about a gun Jim had just purchased.


He told me that he purchased it.


From somebody in the newspaper in Las Vegas.


Did you ever see it?


Yes, sir. When Jim Hughden brought it over to.


My house to show him how to use it.


Please raise your right hand.


A ballistics expert testified that the bullet taken from Russell Douglas's head came from Jim Huden's gun.


This bullet was fired from this bursa 380 auto.


Given those facts, it seemed odd that the murder weapon wasn't simply dropped into Puget Sound. But Keith Ogden told the court that in early January, just days after the murder, jim Huden had asked him to keep the gun in a safe place.


Please take the scan.


The last witness for the prosecution was Detective Mark Plumberg. He told the court that while he was questioning Huden at his home back in 2004, Huden asked a rather OD question of him.


He said, Is Peggy angry enough at me that she would implicate me in this? Had you told Mr. Huden that Peggy Thomas had implicated him? I did not. I had not implicated Peggy Thomas, and I had not suggested that she had any knowledge or part in the crime.


In closing, the prosecution played the videotaped statements Huden later made to Island County detectives down at the Punta gorda Police Station.


I'm a son of a bitch, but I'm no killer. But I'm a son of a bitch.


That would be the only time this jury heard the sound of Jim Heughten's voice during this trial.


Please give your attention to the opening.


Statement of attorney Matt Montoya began his defense of Jim Hewden with a quote from the musical man of La Mancha.


Ladies and gentlemen, facts are the enemy of truth.


You heard right. He told the jury in a first degree murder case that facts are the enemy of truth. Perhaps it's fitting that Montoya, who had just recently appeared in a local production of man of La Mancha, quoted Don Quixote, who famously imagined windmills to be giants. His defense of Jim Hughden would also require a fair amount of imagination not.


Telling you that his side is wrong or my side is right. I want you to address the facts critically, because the facts will show you more than one outcome.


Among the possible conclusions that Montoya suggested might be drawn from the known facts in the case was that Russell Douglas had shot himself.


Did anyone request that you test or preserve his hands for possible gunshot residue?


No. We do preserve things for trace evidence, but that's why the sheet was used inside of the body bag.


So no one tested his hands for gunshot residue?


Not to my knowledge.


A Gotcha, perhaps, but no gun was found in the car, and the fatal bullet had been traced to a gun known to have belonged to Jim Huden.


Was Mr. Douglas'body still in the vehicle at that time?


It was. Okay.


Next, Montoya suggested Russell Douglas was killed somewhere else, perhaps by someone other than Jim Huden, and then placed in the car at the crime scene.


I'm not finding any blood of any sort.


A blood spatter expert named Dr. John Nordby was called to testify in support of that theory. According to Dr. Nordby, the car's interior should have been covered in blood if that was where Russell Douglas had been shot. The shooting seemed to me like it.


Did not occur in this vehicle because there are empty spots where you would expect blood to be. Is permission to approach the witness, your Honor?




On cross examination, prosecutor Banks challenged the defense's only expert witness, pointing out that in his written report on the case, dr. Nordby had cited the movie Pulp Fiction as a good example of the kind of blood spatter he'd expected to see in Russell Douglas'car.


The two characters in the film were facing in front, and they actually got backspatter. The bullet went toward the seat, but the spatter went toward the front. So that's the illustration I was meaning to convey. So you chose to rely on an illustration from a fictional movie produced in Hollywood to help describe this scenario, correct? I guess, sure.


Mr. Young, please come forward.


The final defense theory was that Jim Huughten had an alibi ron Young, a childhood friend of Huden's, took the stand and told the court that Hugon was at his home near Seattle at the time it's believed Russell Douglas was murdered.


I did see him December 26, when he was stopping by on his way out of town.


Do you recall what time that was?


Sometime probably between noon and one.


Was he by himself?




Who was with him?


Peggy Thomas.


With that, the defense rested and the prosecutor offered no cross examination. A month shy of his 59th birthday, jim Hewden was facing a minimum 25 year sentence if found guilty. But just before the jury began deliberations, jim Hewden's attorney reminded them one more time of those immortal words from the man of La Mancha.


Ladies and gentlemen, when we started this trial, I told you facts are the enemy of truth. And I hope you wondered what that meant. You heard facts upon facts upon facts. I'm telling you there are other conclusions that can be made from that evidence.


All right, thank you.


Soon enough, Jim Hewden and his attorney would find out if anyone on that jury had reached one of those alternate conclusions and thus save him from having to spend the rest of his life in prison.


Orange coming up we, the jury, the verdict, and then the other moment everyone's been waiting for. Will Jim testify against Peggy? When dateline continues.


After deliberating for approximately three and a half hours, the jury in Jim Heughten's murder trial reached a verdict. From the moment the jurors began filing in, jim Heughten seemed to know the news would not be good. In a whisper, he murmured, I'm done. The rest of the proceeding for Jim Huden at least, seemed to be a formality.


We, the jury, find the defendant, James Edward Huden guilty of the crime of murder in the first degree.


As charged, Huden would later be sentenced to 80 years in prison. But he'd scarcely been led from the courtroom before prosecutor Greg Banks turned his attention to a far more difficult case the one against Jim Huden's alleged accomplice, Peggy Thomas, charged with murder. There was only one piece of physical evidence tying Peggy to the killing of Russell Douglas. It was that single fingerprint of hers on a page in the gun owner's manual. The case against Jim was pretty strong.


Oh, yeah.


But the case against Peggy was pretty weak.


It was much more circumstantial.


It was Jean Hewden, the wronged wife, who stood to be the strongest witness against Peggy Thomas. According to Jean, Peggy had told her everything that time Jean visited her out in Vegas.


The plan was Peggy had talked to Russell about she had presents for Brenna and the kids, and she had talked Russell into going out to the island to meet with them to pass these presents on.


Not only that, but Jean says Peggy told her that after dropping off Jim at the ambush location, peggy drove off to create an alibi.


They made a point of her driving jim's sebring the red car to buy a pack of cigarettes and to make sure and get a receipt with the date and time on it so it would prove that she wasn't there at the time. Then she came back, picked him up, got rid of his clothes in a dumpster somewhere, and they tried to cover their tracks as best they could.


A powerful story, but the prosecutor knew that putting Jean Hewden on the stand was risky. In the years after Jim fled to Mexico, jean Hewden got into trouble with the law over drugs and check forgery.


I've talked to Jean a lot, and I do believe her. But I also know what happens in a courtroom, and unfortunately, she is not as pure as the driven snow when it comes to what the defense attorney is going to be able to do with her.


Peggy was clearly on the fence as to whether or not to accept a deal or go to trial. What she thought if I just keep my mouth shut, it's worked all this way, I'm going to skate.


That would be my assessment.


Please rise.


On January 11, 2013, peggy Thomas, who'd been under house arrest, entered an island county courtroom for another round of pretrial motions and encountered a familiar face, this time, her former lover, Jim Heughten, took the stand to answer the one burning question that was no doubt keeping both the prosecutor and the defense counsel from sleeping at night.


Mr. Hugon, if you were subpoenaed, would.


Jim Huden agree to testify at Peggy's trial?


No. I assert my fifth amendment rights.


Though the two former lovers never seemed to make direct eye contact that day, jim Huden made it clear that he, at least, was willing to carry their shared secrets to the grave.


Okay, I'll do the fifth amendment thing here.


Perhaps Jim Hewden's gaunt appearance frightened Peggy. Maybe the prospect of having her wardrobe, as well, reduced to basic orange had a sobering effect. But two weeks later, just days before her trial was to begin, peggy Thomas was back in court. Cause number eleven one one nine. This time it was to plead guilty to a reduced charge.


We're here for a change of plea to an amended charge rendering criminal assistance in the first degree with a special allegation that the defendant was armed with a firearm.


In pleading guilty to criminal assistance, peggy Thomas was basically admitting to being an accessory after the fact. Ms. Thomas, do you make this plea freely?


Involuntarily I do.


If you'd gone to trial against Peggy Thomas, you think you would have won? Because if you say yes, my next question is, then why didn't you?


My take on it was we had maybe a 50 50 chance of guilty versus not guilty, and so it was a roll of the dice.


Nothing less than the maximum penalty should.


Be imposed in this case.


A few weeks later, with the family of Russell Douglas present, peggy Thomas was sentenced to four years in prison. Conspicuously. Absent, however, was Russell's widow, Brenna.


I would still love to see her come forward and say, look, I really did make a mistake. I've got to own up to this. That I really did set it in motion, but I didn't mean to. I don't know that's going to happen.


Though. Neither Brenna Douglas nor her attorney have responded to Dateline's request for a statement. In a lawsuit filed against an insurance company to collect on one of her late husband's life insurance policies, brenna said, I categorically state that I was not involved in the death of my husband in any way. Peggy Thomas served her time and was released from jail in August of 2016. Jim Huughton has chosen to keep his secrets to himself while he remains incarcerated. And as for Jean, the woman whose love took her down that dangerous path, she died in August 2021. Back when we interviewed her, gene pondered what compelled Jim to remain silent.


For someone who had managed to get himself 80 years. Because he refused to testify against Peggy or Brennan or anyone, I mean, he was just I can't believe that he may have seen the light of day. Does he think he was doing her a favor one last time? I just don't get it. I really don't get it. He must have really loved her more than I even imagined. Or he's still trying to prove what a man he was or thinks he is.


That's all for now. I'm Lester Holt. Thanks for joining us.


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