Former Ms. Washington Takes Plea Bargain in Murder Case

(Image Credit: ABC News)

A former Ms. Washington has accepted a plea bargain, one week before she was scheduled to stand trial on a first-degree murder charge.

Peggy Sue Thomas, 47, pleaded guilty Thursday to a charge of rendering criminal assistance in the first degree.

"My children are the most important thing to me and the thought of being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison and never being able to touch them or see my grandchildren in person was too big of a risk," Thomas said.

The beauty queen, who has traded her crown and sash for a prison-issued orange jumpsuit, could be sentenced in February to a maximum of four years behind bars for her role in the December 2003 murder of Russel Douglas.

Prosecutors said Thomas and her then-boyfriend, James Huden, lured Douglas into a remote area so Huden could shoot him.

Douglas was found dead in a car in Freeland, Whidbey Island, two days after Christmas 2003.

"We obtained what we believe is Peggy Thomas's fingerprint that connects her to the murder weapon," prosecutor Greg Banks said, however no clear-cut motive was ever revealed.

Prosecutors said it could have been a revenge murder, with Huden and Thomas suspecting that Douglas was abusing his wife and kids.

Thomas had once worked as a beautician at a salon owned by Douglas' wife.

At his trial last year, Huden declined to reveal why he targeted Douglas and rebuffed a deal to testify against his former girlfriend.

Huden was convicted of first degree murder and was sentenced to 80 years in prison.

Meanwhile, the former Ms. Washington is preparing for her sentencing in February, and sending a message.

"I'm not the woman that's been portrayed in the papers over the last few years," she said. "I would want to tell Russell Douglas and his family that I am so sorry for their loss."