How did a former beauty queen-turned-high-end limo driver end up at the heart of a murder case? Peter Van Sant and 48 HOURS explore that question in 'Dangerous Beauty,' an investigation into death of a Washington man and the trail that leads to Peggy Sue Thomas, a one-time Ms. Washington, to be broadcast Saturday April 26, 2014 (10:00 p.m.) on the CBS Television Network.
'My life became a tabloid story with headlines about 'Drop Dead Gorgeous,'' Thomas tells 48 HOURS in her only TV interview. 'All I have to say about that is, believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.'
The investigation into the Christmastime 2003 murder exposed a web of romantic relationships, a twisted tale of revenge, and a case that sat idle until a tipster gave police information that would reignite the investigation. 'It's something you see in the movies, something that some writer's dreamt up,' says Thomas' former friend, Vicky Boyer.
This is no made-for-Hollywood story, however. Russel Douglas, a father of two, was found in his car shot dead off a quiet road on Whidbey Island, just north of Seattle, Wash. Police learned Douglas' marriage was in trouble, and his wife Brenna's beauty salon was in debt. She was off the island the when Douglas was killed and investigators couldn't link her to the murder. Police did find calls between Thomas and Douglas just days before he was killed. Thomas once worked alongside Brenna at the salon.
The case went cold until a tipster called police from Punta Gorda, Fla., more than 3,000 miles away from the crime scene. The man told police his friend and former bandmate, a guitar player named Jim Huden, admitted to him that he had killed Douglas. The tipster said that Huden's then-girlfriend, Thomas, was also involved.
Why would anyone want Douglas dead?
'I have no reason to want anybody dead,' Thomas says.
Prosecutors maintain Thomas, a former Navy aircraft mechanic, lured Douglas to his death under the guise of giving him an early Christmas present for his wife. It was there Huden shot Douglas, according to police.
'There's nothing about this other than a cold-blooded killing,' says lead investigator Detective Mark Plumberg, from the Island County Sheriff's Department.
'I believe that she knows a lot more than she's told us,' Plumberg says of Thomas.
Not so, Thomas tells Van Sant. 'I am telling the truth. I have no reason to lie,' she says.
'These accusations that I'm involved in this crime have been a lie since the beginning,' Thomas says.
What happened to Russel Douglas? And where does Jim Huden fit in? Van Sant and 48 HOURS look at the murder investigation through interviews with Thomas; Boyer; Thomas' ex-husband, Mark Allen; musician Bill Hill; Plumberg; prosecutor Greg Banks; and Jim Huden's ex-wife, Jean.
The 48 HOURS team spent more than a year investigating the case, travelling to Washington State, Mexico, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico.
48 HOURS: 'Dangerous Beauty' is produced by Chris O'Connell and Greg Fisher. Anthony Batson is the senior broadcast producer. Susan Zirinsky is the senior executive producer.
Tune in Saturday night at 9 p.m. on WUSA9.