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tv   Dateline  MSNBC  October 14, 2017 2:00am-3:00am PDT

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why not feel this good everyday? emerge and see.
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♪ florida musician james humidity den was in the middle of an intense investigation with detectives from whid by island washington regarding the murder of russell douglas. then came the question that investigators thought would certainly get his attention.
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>> who is bill hill? >> he's a friend of mine who lives here. bass player. >> does that surprise you that i brought up that name? >> yes. >> why? >> uh, because you're from -- whidbey island? >> would it surprise you that i've been talking to him almost daily for the last week and a half? >> yeah, it would surprise 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 little bit. >> it's truth or dare time, jim. you know what you told bill. he's your best friend in the whole world. the guy is falling 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 a minute. >> if revealing bill hill as their source was intended to shock jim huden 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
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let their primary suspect go free. were you worried at all about bill hill? now you've disclosed 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 huden would be far too worried about his own skin and not have to worry about taking retribution on bill hill. >> easy for him to say. bill hill remembers being terrified when he heard his former friend knew he was the one that called the police. >> oh, yeah. scared to death. >> watching your back. >> oh, yeah. yeah. >> that terror was amplified a few days later when hurricane charley which had been churning up the gulf, suddenly made an unexpected turn and slammed into punta gorda. packing 150 mile-an-hour winds, charley leveled parts of town, taking out electricity and
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giving plenty of cover to someone like jim huden who might want revenge. >> i slept on the couch in the living room with my 357 under the pillow, literally. >> because you thought jim was coming? >> yes. >> how did you sleep? >> not very good. >> as it turned out, the detective was right. jim huden had plenty on his plate and no intention of sticking around. in the days after detectives knocked on his door and accused him of murder, the man who once performed under the name buck naked, he felt suddenly exposed. he was sure of two things, the cops would be back and he had no intention of ever wearing prison orange.
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>> he told me you'll never see me in the a jumpsuit. >> which brings us back to that hurricane, hurricane charlie. jean says 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. >> i left him with about four or $5,000, a bunch of pills and he was going to go off and take himself out somewhere. >> you were crying. >> i was hysterical. >> was he cry? >> yes, he was. so i drove away thinking that was the last time i'd ever see him and i would be getting a knock on the door asking me to identify his body. >> for weeks she said she waited amid the ruins of her storm-ravaged home for word on jim's fate. she assumed he was dead and that's what she told the cops when they called to follow up.
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>> there were several messages on the machine from them, and i called them back and i told them what had happened. it was like, well, now you've got your man, he's dead and there you go. the case is solved. 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 they'd heard from jim and that jim was in 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.
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and so i sent him yet more money and allowed him to, you know, get out of the country. >> which wasn't at that point a crime since there were no charges against him. >> at this point, no. >> here's where our story takes another bizarre turn. while jean huden, 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 huden'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
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cigarettes. i said, it can't be. and i said you know what? just know that i love you. you'll never see me or hear from me again. >> with no evidence tying peggy to the murder, the detectives asked for the public's help in documents the couple's movements in 2003 where russell douglas was murdered. >> we put out descriptions of the vehicle he was driving. just a few days after it hit the media we got a phone call from dona ana county sheriff's office in new mexico saying someone had turned in as a firearm that they believe might have been used in a homicide on whidbey island. >> talk about luck. >> it doesn't get any better than that. >> the gun came from a former las vegas sheriff's deputy who recently retired to new mexico. the deputy had known jim huden and peggy thomas in las vegas, and in october 2003, the deputy said huden had come to his house and asked to be shown how to shoot the gun. according to the deputy, the
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next time he saw either huden or the gun was in january 2004 when jim huden 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 russel's brain. >> the murder weapon. >> that's the murder weapon. >> and you have a guy telling you that jim huden gave it to him. >> right. not just that jim huden gave it to him, but he taught jim huden to fire the weapon and that jim huden gave it back to him just a few days after the murder of russel douglas. >> if you'd had that information before you went to florida, you could have brought jim huden back in cuffs. >> you bet. >> instead, now you've got the proof, and jim huden is nowhere to be found. >> right. we have all we need. now we just need jim. coming up, with jim out of
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the picture, his lover peggy thomas meets a new man, a millionaire cowboy who was about to be taken in a wild ride. >> she said, but i didn't have nothing to do with it. i said, well, did you take a lie detector. she said no, my lawyer told me not to. i'm like, if you're innocent, why wouldn't you take a lie detector? and she never gave me a good answer. i looked in her eyes, she's evil. >> when "dateline" continues. a type of irregular heartbeat not caused by a heart valve problem. but no matter where i ride, i go for my best. so if there's something better than warfarin, i'll go for that too. eliquis. eliquis reduced the risk of stroke better than warfarin, plus had less major bleeding than warfarin. eliquis had both. don't stop taking eliquis unless your doctor tells you to, as stopping increases your risk of having a stroke. eliquis can cause serious and in rare cases fatal bleeding. don't take eliquis if you have an artificial heart valve
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for nine months, the mystery of who killed russel douglas for nine months the mystery of who killed russel 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 huden's name meant
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nothing to russel's family, but the name of huden's girlfriend peggy thomas did. >> peggy thomas is the owner of the home that russel and brenna rented, that they had had a verbal agreement that they were going to buy if they could come up with the capital. >> given that brenna was the named beneficiary on russel's life insurance policies, russel'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 huden and russel douglas, and it wasn't just a circumstantial connection either. on page 14 of the murder weapon's owner's manual, investigators had found a fingerprint belonging to peggy
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thomas. troubling, but what concerned russel douglas' 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. >> he worked with her and you're not saying a peep, you know? if it was your friend, something, either disbelief or i can't believe my friend did this, i want to make sure they get punished. >> let's go get them. >> 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 he'd be better to you dead than alive. she said, well, i might have and at that point i 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
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consequences or, as some suspected, had brenna actively recruited russel's killers? the family couldn't know for sure, but that question now complicated their relationships with brenna and the grandchildren. >> and we tried to be as supportive as we could for the kids, but i know she listens to all of their conversations. so it's a very controlled conversation. >> 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 call her first or she called you? >> no. she called me. >> 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.
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i didn't tell her anything about jim. >> why did you not hang up the phone? >> i don't know. i don't know. >> this isn't even jim. this is jim's mistress. >> i know. i'm an idiot. >> but that's not all. jean says she was able to stay in contact with jim while he was in mexico and jim asked her to fly out to vegas the 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 i knew he was okay. it was just very weird. 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 huden's trail grew colder, the lives of the women who would had loved him took drastically divergent paths while jean grew steadily poor supporting jim, the ever-resourceful peggy, now
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a limo driver in vegas, hit the jackpot. in 2007 one of her affairs 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, and i said i'll take the ex-mrs. washington. >> five months after meeting peggy thomas, allen 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, allen says peggy was nosing her way into his horse business, pressing him to fire longtime employees and hire friends of hers. >> you know, she wanted her people to do the accounting and stuff. >> when he refused, allen says, the man magnet turned into a maneater. >> she'd get on me and it was -- it was like a man getting on
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you. she's a pretty good sized woman. i looked in her eyes and i -- 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 she was accused of being involved in a murder and that her ex-boyfriend had killed a guy. she said, but i didn't have nothing to do with it. i said, did you take a lie detector? she said, no, my lawyer told me not to. i said if you're innocent why wouldn't you take a lie detector? and she never gave me a good answer.
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>> 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 says he saw peggy in the press. >> she said she was down here training horses and breeding 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. >> maybe you could have died in a shootout with him? >> it could have happened. he probably would have taken me out next. >> torn between joining jim on the lam and turning him in. which would she choose? >> the man cost me everything i had. i spent every dime i had. i lost my house, i lost my
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livelihood. i'm sorry. >> when "dateline" continues. (cheering) a triangle solo? surprising. what's not surprising? how much money sam and yohanna saved by switching to geico. fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more. copdso to breathe better,athe. i go with anoro. ♪go your own way copd tries to say, "go this way." i say, "i'll go my own way" with anoro. ♪go your own way once-daily anoro contains two medicines called bronchodilators, that work together to significantly improve lung function all day and all night. anoro is not for asthma . it contains a type of medicine
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i'm dara brown. the death toll in the california wild fires stands at at least 35. meanwhile the national weather service says dangerous winds will continue today. nbc news confirms embattled movie mogul harvey weinstein will contest his firing at the next board meeting next week. today the academy that meets to award oscars will meet to
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determine if weinstein should be kicked out of the organization. more than three dozen women now accuse him of sexual harassment or misconducmisconduct. now back to "dateline." ♪ by the spring 2011 russel 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'd been watching me for years. they tapped my phones. >> police were pretty sure you were in contact with jim. >> 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. >> it was in vera cruz, mexico.
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i went down a few times to see him, of course to give him more money. he was teaching music to kids at a music school down there. i'd fly up to dulles airport and then to kansas and change planes so they couldn't track how i was going and how i was getting to him or we'd meet in other cities. i never flew directly to him so, you know, so they couldn't trace me, you know, to get to him. >> but that kind of devotion doesn't come cheap. jim's life on the lam had 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, and i lost my livelihood -- sorry. >> and yet, after her father died in 2007 jean says she seriously considered joining her
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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 i.d. i was getting ready to leave and not be able to come back to this country for the rest of my life. >> maybe you would have died in a shootout with him. >> that's probably what would have happened. 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 bruner 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's -- he saved my life, basically. >> so love kd of wrecked your life and then love also saved your life. >> yeah. i guess it did. it sure did. yeah. >> because of bill, jean gave up
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her dream of re-joining jim huden, but it wasn't until the spring of 2011 that bill bruner convinced her to give up the addiction that was jim. >> i had to finally -- i had enough, you know? 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 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 russel douglas and just where jim huden could be found. >> they're not interested in me. 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 known as buck naked or maestro jim in veracruz and quickly
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turned him over to waiting u.s. 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. >> 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
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peggy thomas kept an 80-foot houseboat that she'd gotten in her divorce from mark allen. >> they said she was a really nice person, that she was single and that she'd put the name off the hook on the boat due to the fact she was single. >> cap ton bryce current of the san juan office, said she was lured to the marina with a bogus package. she didn't seem all that surprised when he placed her under arrest. >> she had an attorney and she'd been waiting for this day and was kind of ready to get it over with. >> peggy thomas was all business, current says, and wasted none of her legendary charm on him. >> just enough time for her to make fun of me and make fun of my braces and how young i looked. she thought i would be someone older, she said. >> after waiting seven long years, russel douglas' family was elated that his susct killers were in jail. but russel's wife, not so much.
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>> 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 russel douglas' family gathered in solidarity for jim huden's first court appearance, russel's widow was conspicuously absent. >> i asked her, are you going to go? 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? >> he had a lot of issues,
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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. >> i said, who all knows about this. >> did he tell you? >> yes, he did. >> when "dateline" continues.
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[chatter] jim huden and peggy thomas were charged with the murder of russel douglas in the summer of 2011. ♪ jim huden and peggy thomas were charged with the murder of russel douglas in the summer of 2011. from that moment, whidbey island prosecutor greg banks had been hoping they would turn on each other and spill the details of what had happened on the day
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russel 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 got a chance to interview them you could ask them. >> because jean huden 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 saysout can't call the spouse against a defendant. >> if you try jean and peggy separately jean couldn't testify against peggy. >> right, and we didn't need her against jim. >> so in july of 2012, more than a year after his wife had given him up, jim huden went on trial for the murder of russel douglas. the opening statement of the island county prosecutor set the tone. >> ladies and gentlemen of the jury, this case is about the assassination of russel douglas the day after christmas 2003. >> banks promised the jury that
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the evidence would show that jim huden and an accomplice had lured russel 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 triggerman. >> mr. huden walked up to that car. he opened the door. he looked him right in the face and in the 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.
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it was just girl talk stuff. >> did you talk about personal things with her? >> yeah. >> according to brenna, her rocky marriage to russel 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? >> that talked to most people about probably too much. >> why did you say that that you talk to people too much. >> are you a person who likes to chat. >> i just chat. >> do you know james huden? >> i met him. >> how is it that you met james 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 that her husband was violent.
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peggy told jim and jim pulled the trigger. the prosecutor explained why. >> mr. huden pulled the trigger on russel 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 huden shared his darkest secret. >> he said i need to tell you about something that's on my mind. >> as jim huden clenched his teeth and stared daggers at his former close friend, bill hill continued. >> he proceeded to tell me my stepfather used to beat me and beat my mother and always have hated that man and wanted to find somebody else that fit that m.o., and then he said 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 russel douglas and that russel's
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widow brenna had known about it. >> i said who all knows about this? >> did he tell you? >> yes, he did. 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. >> but no evidence was offered to buttress that charge, no incriminating emails, no cell phone records. no suspicious money transfers. the question of brenna douglas' 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 him that jim huden came to court in late october 2003, just two months before russel douglas was killed to talk about a gun jim had just
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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 huden brought it over to my house to show him how to use it -- >> a ballistics expert testified that the bullet taken from russel douglas' head came from jim huden's gun. >> this bullet was fired from this .380 auto. >> given those facts, it seemed odd that the murder weapon wasn't simply dropped into pujet 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 stand. >> 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 odd question of him. >> he said is peggy angry enough
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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 [ expletive ], but i am no killer. i'm a son of a [ expletive ]. that would be the only time this jury heard the sound of jim huden's voice during this trial. >> please give your attention to the opening statement -- >> attorney matt montoya began his defense of jim huden with a quote from the musical "man of la mancha." >> ladies and gentlemen, facts are the enemy of truth. >> you heard right.
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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" who famously imagined wind mills to be giants. his defense of jim huden would also require a fair amount of imagination. >> not telling you that his side is wrong or that my is are side is right. i want you to address the facts critically because the facts will show you more than one outcome, other than what he suggested, was that russel 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
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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. >> next, montoya suggested, russel 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 blood of any sort. >> a blood spatter expert named dr. john nordby. was called to testify. according to him, the car's interior should have been covered in blood if that is where russel doug lals 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. >> permission to approach the witness, your honor? >> yes.
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>> 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 the kind of example of the kind of blood spatter he would expect to see in russel douglas' car. >> the two characters in the film were facing in front and they actually got back spatter, the bullet went toward the backseat, but the spatter went through 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. >> the final defense theory was that jim huden had an alibi, ron young, a childhood friend of huden's took the stand and told the court that huden was at his home in seattle at the time it's believed russel douglas was murdered.
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>> i did see him december 26th when he was stopping by on his way out of town. >> do you recall what time that was? some time probably between noon and 1:00? >> was he by himself? >> no. >> who was with him? >> peggy thomas. >> with that, the defense rested and the defense offered no cross-examination. a month shy of his 59th birthday jim huden was facing a minimum 25-year sentence if found guilty, but just before the jury began deliberations, jim huden's attorney reminded them one more time of those immortal words from "the man of la mancha." >> ladies and gentlemen, when i started this trial i told you facts were the enemy of truth and i hope you wondered what that meant. you heard facts upon facts facts. i'm telling you there are other conclusions that could be made from that evidence. >> soon enough, jim huden and his attorney would find out if anyone on that jurhad reached one of those alternate
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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. >> peggy was clearly on the fence whether to accept a deal or go to trial. she thought, i'll keep my mouth shut, it's worked all this way. i'm going to skate. >> that would be my assessment. >> will jim testify against peggy? when "dateline" continues.
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after deliberating for approximately 3 and 1/2 hours, after deliberating for approximately three and a half juryane jim huden's murder trial reached a verdict. jim huden seemed to know the news would not be good. in a whisper he murmured. >> i'm done. >> 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 charged. >> huden would later be sentenced to 80 years to prison. but he'd scarcely be led from
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the courtroom until he was turned to a difficult case. there was only one piece of physical evidence tying peggy to that evidence. it was that single fingerprint of hers in a page of 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. >> according to jean, peggy had told her everything. >> the plan was peggy had talked to russell if she had plans for brenna and the kids. and she had talked russell to going out to the island to meet with him to pass his presence on. >> not only that but jean says after dropping off jim at the
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ambush location, peggy drove off to create an albi. >> they made a point to driving peggy to sea brng and getting a receipt with date and time line to prove she wasn't there at the time. then she came back, picked him up, got rid of his clothes in a dumpster somewhere and tried to cover their tracks as best they could. >> a powerful story. but the prosecutor knew putting jim huden on the stand was risky. jean huden got in trouble with the law over drugs and check forgery. >> unfortunately, she is not as pure as the driven snow when it comes to what the defendant attorney is going to be able to do with her. >> peggy was cly on the fence on whether or not to accept a deal or go to trial. what she thought, if i kept my
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mouth shout, it's going to go all this way, i'm going to escape. >> that would be my assessment. >> on january 11, 2013, peggy thomas, who'd been under house arrest entered a courtroom for another round of pre-trial motions and encountered a familiar face. this time her former lover jim huden took the stand to answer the one burning question that was no doubt keeping both the prosecutor and the defense council from sleeping at night. would jean huden agree to testify at peggy's trial? >> i know. i assert my fifth amendment rights. >> though the two former lovers never seemed to make direct eye contact that day, jim huden showed he at least was willing to carry their shared secrets to the grave. perhaps jim huden's gaunt appearance frightened peggy. maybe the prospect of having her
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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 11-1. >> this time it was to plead guilty to a reduced charge. >> we'll hear to a charge of plea to a rendered charge rendering assistance to the first degree. >> in pleading guilty to criminal assistance, peggy thomas was basically admitting to be an asary after the fact. >> ms., thomas, do you make this plea freely and voluntarily? >> 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
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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 to prison. constickulously absent, however, was russell widow, brenna. >> i would still love to see her come forward and say, look, i made a mistake. i really did set it in motion, but i didn't mean to. >> though neither brenna thomas nour douglas responded, in a lawsuit to an insurance company 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 2016mism jim huden has chosen to keep his secrets to himself while he remains incarcerated.
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and as for jean, she ponders jim's decision to remain silent. >> for someone who managed to get himself 80 years because he refused to testify against pego or anyone, i can't believe he may have seen the light of day. did he think he was doing 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 imagine 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. ah, dinner.
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craig melvin. and i'm natalie morales. and this is "dateline." craig melvin: a sprawling southern family farm with a pair of churchgoing grandparents at its heart. nathan bennett: they were definitely a sprawling southern family farm with a pair of church going grandparents at its heart. >> they were definitely the most loving individuals i ever met in my life. >> there was no way it was supposed to end like this. >> she took me by the hand and said sugar and charlie had been murdered. >> the former church deacon and his wife. who on earth would want them dead? >> it doesn't make sense. they were loved by everyone. >> everyone, maybe. but their own daute

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