October 7, 2011 in Nation/World

Murder defendant to take trip before trial

Gene Johnson Associated Press

SEATTLE – A Washington state judge is letting a murder defendant take a two-week, five-state road trip so she can attend her half-sister’s memorial service, go to the dentist and pick up some winter clothes.

Former hairdresser Peggy Sue Thomas was arrested this summer at her houseboat in New Mexico and charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors say that in 2003 she lured a man named Russ Douglas to the spot on Whidbey Island where he was killed.

Thomas, free on $500,000 bail, asked a judge this week for permission to attend a memorial for her recently deceased half-sister in Idaho, and to travel to New Mexico, Utah and Nevada to take care of a few chores – preparing to sell a house, going to her dentist, and picking up her winter clothes, among other things.

In an oral ruling on Monday, Judge Michael Moynihan agreed, over the objections of Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks.

“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything like that,” Banks said Thursday. “We’re sure hoping she comes back.”

Thomas will be on GPS monitoring during her travels, but Banks said she may be out of signal range at various points.

Her attorney, Craig Platt, laid out a tentative itinerary that includes Thomas driving to Bonners Ferry, Idaho, to attend the memorial before flying to Albuquerque, N.M.

Thomas was accused of plotting with her boyfriend, James Huden, to kill Douglas, who was found shot to death in a car in Freeland, Wash., two days after Christmas in 2003. Huden was charged with murder in 2005 and arrested in Mexico in June; he has pleaded not guilty.

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