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Bail dropped to $500,000 from $5 million for beauty queen murder suspect

Peggy Sue Thomas enters an Island County courtroom for her bail hearing on Tuesday. - Brian Kelly / The Record
Peggy Sue Thomas enters an Island County courtroom for her bail hearing on Tuesday.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

COUPEVILLE - The bail for the former beautician and beauty queen charged in the first-degree murder of a Langley man was cut from $5 million to $500,000 at her bail hearing Tuesday in Island County Superior Court.

Peggy Sue Thomas said nearly nothing during her short appearance in court.

Her attorney, Craig Platt, said Thomas was not a flight risk and had no prior criminal history. Platt asked that Thomas be released without bail, on her own personal recognizance.

Platt said her mother, Doris Matz, had agreed to let Thomas live at her home in Langley's Edgecliff neighborhood.

"First and foremost, Ms. Thomas has absolutely no criminal history whatsover," Platt said.

He added that she had also cooperated with law enforcement during the investigation, and had offered to give a DNA sample and make herself available for additional police interviews.

Thomas was arrested in July in New Mexico aboard her luxury houseboat called "Off the Hook," nearly eight years after Russel Douglas was shot as he sat in his car waiting for a Christmas present.

The Island County Prosecutor's Office charged her with first-degree murder on July 6, alleging that Thomas, a former Washington state beauty queen, helped lure Douglas to the remote location in Freeland where her boyfriend, James "Jim" Huden, shot him in the head.

During Tuesday's hearing, Platt also recalled that when police served Thomas with a search warrant for her home, Thomas also let them look through her car, which wasn't part of the warrant.

"She has never attempted to flee," Platt added.

Platt said there was "no evidence" that Thomas was directly involved in the murder. He recounted her long employment history, from four years in the Navy and an honorable discharge, to becoming the first female lead mechanic at BFGoodrich in Everett, to her work as a limousine driver in Las Vegas, Nev., and later, her job as a trainer and breeder for race horses.

She had also been very involved in her community, from coaching girls basketball at South Whidbey High School when she lived on Whidbey, to helping with her son's graduating class in Roswell, N.M.

Prosecuting Attorney Greg Banks said her past employment history, however, showed that Thomas was a "chameleon" who could change with her surroundings.

Her ability to reinvent herself, Banks said, would help her if she fled from the area while awaiting trial.

Banks added that not everyone has a glowing opinion of Thomas, including family members and her ex-husband, who had spoken to authorities earlier Tuesday and complained that she quickly divorced him after they were married and took their house and a six-figure settlement.

That statement brought a loud, mocking laugh from Thomas, who was immediately shushed by her attorney.

"He thought she was a mean-hearted woman ... and would not be surprised if she would run," Banks continued.

Hancock noted the serious nature of the charge — which carries a minimum 20-year sentence upon conviction — and said there was the danger that Thomas would try to tamper with witnesses in the case.

"This is a first-degree murder charge and there is significant risk of flight," Hancock said.

Hancock kept previously imposed conditions on her release in place — that she wear a real-time GPS device, surrender her passport, and not commit further crimes — before lowering her bail to $500,000. Thomas looked at the judge and mouthed the word "thanks."

Thomas will face arraignment on the first-degree murder charge on Sept. 26.

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