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Crime News Dateline

Youth Pastor's Dark Secrets Are Exposed After Wife Dies in House Fire: "A Cautionary Tale"

Nick Hacheney was viewed as a charismatic and devout man of God, but parishioners would say he used his faith to manipulate others in dangerous ways.

By Jill Sederstrom

Youth Pastor Nick Hacheney was a beloved spiritual mentor at the small, devoutly religious church in Bainbridge Island, Washington where he worked.

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Catch up on Dateline: Unforgettable on Peacock or the Oxygen App.

When his young wife, Dawn Hacheney, died in a house fire the day after Christmas in 1997, the congregation rallied around him — yet years later dark and disturbing secrets would be revealed that had some believing Nick had been influenced by “the devil” himself, according to Dateline: Unforgettable.

“Some Dateline stories turn out to be cautionary tales and this is one of them. It’s a case we covered back in 2010,” Correspondent Josh Mankiewicz remarked of why the case has stayed with him all these years. “When I went to Bainbridge Island I met members of a devout flock who told me things they’d done that they were deeply ashamed of. It couldn’t have been easy to talk with us and I’m grateful they did.” 

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Dawn Meets Nick Hacheney

From a very young age, Dawn felt a close tie to God, even thanking her spiritual leader during her speech as high school valedictorian. "I give God the glory for my accomplishments because without him, I could not have remained strong and faithful,” she told the crowd.

Friends and family described Dawn as sweet, extremely dedicated in her beliefs and often the conscious of others.

Dawn was always my angel,” her mom, Diana Parmele, recalled.

When she met Nick, an equally devout young man, she was thrilled, even describing him to her friend Eunice as her “knight.”

“They had a real chemistry between them that was real fun and close. Just a cute couple. Dawn was lovely,” Christ Community Church congregation member Annette Anderson recalled. “She was young and innocent and bright and kind and just a really good person.” 

What happened to Dawn Hacheney?

The couple was married in 1990 and Nick began working as the youth pastor at Christ Community Church.

“He was a really likable guy, really nice, like a brother. And he seemed like almost a breath of fresh air in there because he was real,” Annette said. “He wasn’t uptight. He was funny. He was fun.”

The church was a place where congregants practiced “super spirituality” and believed they could hear the voice of God talking to them directly. A church sermon could last hours with congregants speaking in tongues or crying out. The three pastors who led the church, including Hacheney, held special counseling sessions for congregants, where they prayed to God to cast out “demons” holding them back.

“They’d ask them if they’d had an affair, if they drank too much, if they went to a baseball game — I mean, whatever it was that was not considered correct,” Gregg Olsen, author of the book A Twisted Faith, explained.

All the perceived infractions were logged into a book, keeping the parishioners living in a state of perpetual fear.

Then, in the fall of 1997, congregant Sandy Glass made an ominous prophecy. She told Nick that God spoke to her and told her his wife Dawn was going to die and she would become his new wife. She’d later say Nick responded to the news, saying, “I knew it.” 

It was around that same time that Annette remembers Dawn seemingly struggling in the marriage. Nick often spent his time with others, leaving her feeling lonely. At one baby shower, she broke down in tears because she believed her husband was losing interest in her.

“It was sad,” Annette recalled.

Then, on Dec. 26, 1997, Glass’ prophecy seemingly came true. Dawn was killed in a house fire that tore through the couple’s home. She was found in bed, burned beyond recognition.

Nick told Bremerton Police that he had turned on a space heater before leaving that morning to go hunt and believed some nearby wrapping paper may have ignited while he was gone. 

Diana Parmele featured on Dateline Unforgettable 403

Christ Community Church Parishioners Speak Out

The death was presumed to be nothing more than a tragic accident and Nick continued his work at the church.

By then, he was also conducting marriage counseling sessions with his parishioners, but there was something very unusual about his sessions. Although the sessions typically began with couples, including Annette and Craig Anderson, Nick would soon begin only meeting with the wife in the couple. 

Just weeks after Dawn died, Annette told Dateline: Unforgettable, Nick told her God wanted the two of them to have sex as part of the ongoing counseling. She reluctantly agreed and began regularly meeting him at a hotel.

But she wasn’t the only one. Nick began having sexual relations with other women in the church, cashing in on their sympathy for the grieving widow, including Dawn’s own mother. 

"I went through a lot of personal struggles with just wanting to escape from everything, but it led to other things, which I’m very ashamed of, you know, things that I did. But at the time, it was just my way of escaping,” Parmele would later admit.

She believed she was helping a broken man, who her daughter had loved, find himself again.

“When I saw him, you know, I thought — I just believed that I saw in his eyes the deep sadness that was there from the loss of Dawn,” she explained.

Dawn Hacheney's Killer Revealed

Annette’s affair with Nick — which she called the “biggest mistake of my life”— ended in 1998 and for years she remained silent, until finally admitting her dark deeds in an argument with her husband Craig in 2001. 

Craig was furious and went to speak with one of the church leaders in a meeting that also included Glass. After the meeting, Glass hired a criminal defense attorney and went to speak to police, telling them her own jaw-dropping story. 

Glass admitted to having an affair with Nick in the months before his wife’s death and said they had both talked extensively about ending the life of their respective spouses. She separated from her own husband in 1997 and believed God was telling her that Dawn’s life would soon end.

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After the fire on Dec. 26, Glass told authorities that Nick had called her and told her “it’s done.” 

He allegedly told her that on the morning of the fire, he was lying in bed when he heard God tell him to “take the land," a phrase from the Old Testament he took to mean go for what he wanted — so he allegedly drugged Dawn with Benadryl, suffocated her to death and then started the fire.

“We did have information that Dawn did have a cold Christmas Day and had been taking Benadryl, but there was an excessive amount in her body,” Bremerton Police Detective Sue Schultz said. 

Where is Nick Hacheney now?

The shocking admission caused police to reopen the closed case. Nick was arrested for murder that same year, sending shockwaves through the church community.

According to Annette, it took her years of healing for her to get over the manipulation. 

"Trust is hard for me, especially in the context of church, because I know that power corrupts, and that church is a place that people can get power,” she said. 

Nick, who continues to profess his innocence, was convicted of her murder in 2002 and will be eligible for parole in 2027, according to Dateline: Unforgettable.

“At its core, this was a story about a man murdering his wife and it remains a cautionary tale about the dark side of unquestioning faith,” Mankiewicz said.