CRIME
01/28/2013 10:31 am ET

Peggy Sue Thomas, Former Miss Washington, Takes Plea Deal Week Before Scheduled Murder Trial

The strange tale of a former beauty queen accused of killing a co-worker's husband fizzled to an end last week as she took a plea deal a week before her murder trial was scheduled to start.

Peggy Sue Thomas won Ms. Washington in 2000; she became a Las Vegas limo driver and subsequently had a short marriage to a rich owner of a Kentucky Derby-winning horse, according to NBC. Now, she'll add a prison stint to her life story for her role in the killing of Russel Douglas on Whidbey Island -- north of Seattle -- in 2003.

Prosecutors alleged that she lured Douglas to the woods with the prospect of giving him a present days after Christmas, according to the Associated Press. When he arrived, her lover and accomplice -- identified as James Huden-- shot Douglas.

A detective heard from a witness that the murdered man had abused his children and wife, who worked with Thomas in a hair salon and lived in a house that she owned. The prosecutor said that Thomas plotted with Huden, her ex-boyfriend, to kill Douglas, 32, as revenge for the mistreatment of his family, the South Whidbey Record reported.

But prosecutors reached a plea deal last Thursday with 47-year-old Thomas, in which she pleaded guilty to rendering criminal assistance. She's likely to receive a four-year sentence when she's sentenced on Feb. 15, the Seattle Times said.

Thomas' backstory generated a huge amount of interest in her case, leading Seattle Weekly to dub it "Drop-Dead Gorgeous."

Violent crime had plagued her large family, according to the Seattle Weekly profile. Her stepbrother was killed in an Alaska bar by a man he'd defeated in an arm-wrestling match. Her stepmother was also murdered.

She met one of her husbands -- the owner of Kentucky Derby winner Mine that Bird -- while working as a limousine driver in Las Vegas. Her resume also includes experience as a hairdresser and a Naval mechanic.

Investigators looking into who killed Douglas eventually tied her to the case through Huden. Police got a call from Huden's friend who alleged that he admitted to killing a man in Washington. A retired officer in New Mexico handed in a gun that Huden borrowed which turned out to be the weapon used to shoot Douglas. Other witnesses allegedly implicated Thomas, according to media reports.

Huden went on the lam and was arrested in Mexico. Last summer, he was convicted of killing Douglas, earning him an 80-year sentence.

Authorities arrested Thomas in 2011 while she was living in New Mexico on a houseboat named "Off the Hook." Following her arrest, a judge allowed her a 2-week road trip across five states to attend a sister's memorial, sell her house and go the dentist.

Huden's refused to testify against Thomas and another witness the prosecution planned to call is too sick to travel from Florida. Faced with diminished prospects of getting a conviction, they Island County district attorney's office accepted the plea deal on a lesser charge.

Thomas maintains her innocence, but told ABC News she pleaded guilty because she didn't want to risk being imprisoned for the rest of her life.

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