Is 'Circle of Deception' based on a true story? Inside cold-blooded murder and tragedy of beauty queen and musician

'Circle of Deception' follows the true story of Peggy Sue Thomas, a former beauty queen and her connection with the murder of Russel Douglas by her then-boyfriend Jim Huden

                            Is 'Circle of Deception' based on a true story? Inside cold-blooded murder and tragedy of beauty queen and musician
'Circle of Deception' stars Diane Neal and April Telek in the leading roles of Peggy Sue Thomas and Brenna Douglas (Lifetime)

Fact is stranger than fiction they say. In the case of ‘Circle of Deception’, the facts have certainly provided a gripping story. The Lifetime movie is based on actual events that led to the murder of businessman Russel Douglas which sent shockwaves through the island community of Whidbey.

Russel Douglas’ wife Brenna who he shared a volatile relationship with in the movie as well as in real life, shared the details of her emotionally abusive relationship with her best friend Peggy Sue Thomas — details which Peggy Sue Thomas' then-boyfriend Jim Huden was privy to.

Peggy Sue, a former Miss Washington, had a particularly rocky romantic history and her boyfriend Jim Huden, unfortunately, was no exception. Jim, who due to a deeply abusive childhood, harbored deep-seated revenge issues, particularly towards those he deemed abusers, is believed to have shot Russel in cold blood.

But while Jim Huden pulled the trigger, the question still remains to this day, what exactly was Peggy Sue's role in the murder?


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Peggy Sue Thomas was a former 'Miss Washington' (CBS News)

Investigators believe that Peggy Sue could have been instrumental in setting the stage for the murder. As for what could have been the motive for doing so, theories abound that there was a pact between Brenna, Peggy Sue and Jim to split the life insurance payout that would result from Russel's death.

Police also discovered that, in the days leading up to Russel's death, there were several calls from Peggy Sue to Russel. While Peggy Sue claimed that she was just making arrangements with Russel to drop off a surprise gift for his wife Brenna, some theories say this was simply a ruse to get Russel to a deserted spot where his murder could then occur.

Peggy Sue, however, has constantly portrayed herself as a victim as well, saying her only crime was falling in love with the wrong man. Falling in love came rather easily it seems to Peggy Sue, who barely months after being deemed a murder suspect in the Russel Douglas case married multi-millionaire Mark Allen. Peggy Sue met Mark in her job as a limousine driver in Las Vegas for high-profile clients. The marriage, however, lasted for only seven months. 

While initially, the police didn't have enough evidence to hold Jim, Peggy Sue Thomas or Brenna, more details began coming to light. The details came from Jim Huden's friend and fellow band member Bill Hill. Hill said that Jim confessed to him that he had killed Russel as a way of exacting revenge by proxy for his stepfather's abuse.

Hill waited for six months before coming forward with the information. Hill also said that Jim had told him about his accomplices in the case, which included Peggy Sue and Brenna. Hill, however, believed that while Brenna had knowledge of what was going to happen, she didn't play an active part in the murder. Jim was eventually sentenced to 80 years in prison, but he never implicated either Brenna or Peggy Sue. 

'Circle of Deception' stars Tahmoh Penikett and Diane Neal (Lifetime)

With no evidence that money ever changed hands between Brenna, Jim and Peggy Sue, Brenna was free to go. However, for investigators on this case, she still remains on their radar. As for Peggy Sue, just a week before her trial was about to start, she was offered a plea deal, four years in prison on a reduced charge of rendering criminal assistance.

She accepted. When asked what innocent person accepts a deal that will see her in prison for four years, Sue said, "A person that's smart enough to realize that in this tiny little community of people who have been fed and fed and fed a story that isn't true ... that I wasn't gonna get a fair trial."

Peggy Sue served her prison sentence at the Washington Correction Centre for Women and was released in 2016. You can catch 'Circle of Deception', the movie on this dramatic true story, on Lifetime on Saturday, March 6, at 8 pm ET/PT.

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