Practice to Deceive
|Cover artist||Lewelin Polanco|
|Media type||Print (Hardback), e-book, audio-CD|
|LC Class||HV6533.W2 R854 2013|
Practice to Deceive is a 2013 book by the American author Ann Rule that details the murder of Russel Douglas, found shot between the eyes in his car on Whidbey Island, north of Seattle, Washington, on Christmas Day 2003. The book was released in October 2013 by Simon & Schuster's Gallery Books imprint.
Police on Whidbey Island quickly rule out suicide when no gun is found near Douglas's car and pursue a homicide investigation. The case took nearly 10 years to solve, mostly due to the lack of physical evidence linking the scene of the crime or a weapon to anyone who knew Russel Douglas. The officers are pessimistic that the weapon will ever be found since it would be easy to dispose of it. While the detectives considered a possible motive for Brenna, Douglas's estranged wife, a former law enforcement officer reveals that he has a Bersa semiautomatic gun that fits the description of the weapon the police were searching for, and that he had been asked to hold it by James Huden. Huden, a former resident of Whidbey Island, was romantically involved with Peggy Sue Thomas. Thomas worked in a beauty salon with Brenna Douglas, but investigators found no clear cut motive. Thomas, a former beauty queen, had married several times. The book details Thomas's short and tempestuous marriage to Mark Allen, a wealthy rancher and co-owner of famed thoroughbred Mine That Bird.
Though forensic testing identified the Bersa as the murder weapon, Huden evaded capture by living incognito in Mexico. Nevertheless, Mexican authorities apprehended Huden and turned him over to American officials. With Huden in custody, investigators theorize that Douglas had been shot to death in a murder-for-hire plan orchestrated by Brenna Douglas, the beneficiary of his $500,000 life insurance policies. Prosecutors believed they had a strong case against Huden, and some evidence linking his actions to Thomas. Both were charged.
Ultimately, Huden went to trial first. In 2012, he was convicted by an Island County Superior Court jury of first-degree murder and was sentenced to 80 years in prison. Rather than trial, Thomas pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of rendering criminal assistance, and received a sentence of four years.
Brenna Douglas used the insurance money to buy a home, though it eventually fell into foreclosure. Nevertheless, Douglas, though never being charged, was the only person to receive any financial benefit as a direct result of Russel Douglas's murder.
Though concerned with the Douglas murder, author Rule also explored the tragic past of Thomas's family's history. Thomas's mother, Doris Stackhouse, had been the second wife of Thomas's father, Jimmie. In 1963, Mary Ellen Stackhouse, Jimmie's first wife, was brutally murdered in her home by Gilbert Thompson, a teenager who lived nearby. The Stackhouse daughters, who were still children at the time, were not told the grisly truth behind their mother's death. Ultimately, they learned the truth and confronted Thompson when he was up for parole. The board denied Thompson release, and he died in prison in 2004. In 1983, Rob Stackhouse, Mary Ellen's youngest child, was killed at a party. In 1995, Josh Little - Jimmie's son by his third wife - was killed in a motor vehicle accident in Salt Lake City. Brenda Stackhouse Gard, Peggy's sister, was found dead in her home in September 2011 while Peggy awaited trial for her role in the Douglas case. Brenda had been expected to testify against her sister at Peggy's trial, but authorities concluded that Peggy had no role in her sister's death.
Kirkus Reviews wrote that "the reigning true-crime queen dips into the darker side of love and mayhem in her latest microscopic take on homicide." At the same time, Kirkus wrote, "While the crime’s particulars might be fascinating to Whidbey (Washington) residents and friends of the participants, in Rule’s hands, they’re underwhelming and dull."
Book Reporter, in its review, wrote that "Rule’s hard work pays off in her newest, gritty account."  True Crime Zine wrote, "The veteran true crime author outlines the homicide investigation that would take detectives from one coast to the other, with a few stops in between."
- True-crime author Ann Rule: 'For every bad guy or bad gal I have to write about there are at least three dozen heroes' - Blog - MyNorthwest.com
- "Practice to Deceive by Ann Rule" - MysteryCrimeScene.com
- After 9 years, justice served as Huden gets 80 - Whidbey News-Times
- Best Sellers - The New York Times
- Best Sellers - The New York Times
- Wall Street Journal Best-Sellers - Sfgate
- Practice to Deceive | Doubleday Book Club
- "PRACTICE TO DECEIVE by Ann Rule" | Kirkus
- Practice to Deceive | Bookreporter.com
- True Crime Zine - "Practice to Deceive by Ann Rule"