TV Crime Sky

‘Circle of Deception’: A Lifetime True Story Movie Based On Steamy Beauty Queen & Blues Killer Affair–Peggy Sue Thomas, James ‘Jim’ Huden

Circle of Deception, another Lifetime true story movie, is based on and inspired by ex-beauty queen Peggy Sue Thomas and the fatal shooting of Russel Douglas by her lover James Huden. It’s also inspired by Ann Rule’s true crime book “Practice to Deceive.” Circle of Deception is part of Lifetime Television’s ripped from the headlines original movies. Peggy Sue Thomas flashed onto the scene after winning the Ms. Washington pageant. Before that, she was a pleasingly plump housewife who used a strict diet and exercise to turn herself into a striking beauty queen to get back at her cheating husband. Peggy eventually made her way into the spotlight again but for something far darker and sinful.


Circle of Deception ( Lifetime Movie Synopsis & Plot) True Story

A tiny island town is in upheaval after Russel Douglas is found murdered the day after Christmas. Brenna Douglas, Russel’s soon-to-be ex-wife, Brenna, tells her best friend and former beauty queen Peggy Sue Thomas that Russel physically and emotionally abused her during their marriage. An investigation untangles each salacious detail until a killer is finally revealed.

[Lifetime movie image w/permission & police file photo]

Peggy Sue Thomas’ Lured Russ Douglas to the Whidbey Island Crime Scene

On a lonely dead-end road off Whidbey Island, police found the body of Russel Douglas slumped in his car with a gunshot wound to the skull. At first, the prime suspect in his murder was his estranged wife Brenna, who police say showed no reaction when they told her he was dead. Instead, she bad-mouthed the victim, painting the marriage as troubled and Russ as abusive. Brenna also stood to gain a hefty insurance payout. The investigation took another direction after detectives combed through Russ Douglas’ phone records, which showed he received several phone calls before Christmas from Peggy Sue Thomas, Brenna’s friend. Police believe Russ Douglas willingly arrived at the secret location because he expected a romp on the beach with the former beauty queen and sexy limousine driver. Peggy Sue Thomas denied it and said her only plan was to give Russ a Christmas present for Brenna.


[Movie image via Lifetime w/permission & real police file photos of Russ Douglas

Named Killer Comes into Focus

A tip came out of nowhere from an informant who told police Jim Huden, a sultry blues player, told him he shot Russel Douglas and that Peggy Sue Thomas helped lure him to the location. Detectives learned Peggy and Jim always had a crush on each other while growing up on Whidbey Island. A steamy affair began after Peggy saw Jim at a funeral. For a long time, Peggy and James Huden met secretly in Vegas, where they engaged in nights of passion while Jim’s wife, Jean Huden, was back home in Punta Gorda, Florida.



[Lifetime image w/permission & police file photo]

But police would get no real answers soon. James Huden disappeared during Hurricane Charley and headed to Veracruz, Mexico, where he played in local blues and jazz clubs. Jean Huden kept his secret for eight years until she couldn’t hold it any longer. In 2011, James Huden, 54, was finally brought to justice and found guilty of the murder of Russel Douglas.



[Lifetime movie image w/ permission & police file photo of the real Jean Huden]

“Miss Peggy” Thomas took a plea deal and received only four years in prison. Jim Huden received 80 years. Where is Peggy Sue Thomas today? She’s is out of prison and living her life in the free world.  Peggy’s case was documented on the TV show Snapped. Circle of Deception airs on Lifetime Saturday, March 6 at 8/7 p.m. Central.


[Main image via Lifetime/with permission]

Traciy Curry-Reyes

Traciy Curry-Reyes is the founder and editor-in-chief of TV Crime Sky. She began her career as a true crime & entertainment freelance writer in the 1990's for her website, The Movies Based on True Stories Database/Archives. She has contributed content to other websites, such as and Traciy also appears as a true-crime expert and commentator on TV One's Fatal Attraction, For My Man, and Justice by Any Means; Investigation Discovery's Murder Calls and Scorned; Oxygen's Snapped; FOX's Crime Watch Daily; and Lifetime Television's Killer Kids.



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