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How Did She Die? Who Killed Her?


NBC’s ‘Dateline: Mortal Sin’ podcast covers an in-depth exploration into the murder case of Dawn Hacheney, a pastor’s wife, who was found dead in her bed after a mysterious house fire. Following her demise, the pastor and his flock were shocked and devastated. What makes the case all the more baffling is when it was discovered that she had died before the house was set ablaze. The podcast also talks about the investigation that followed the tragedy and the incrimination of the perpetrator, providing justice for the victim and her family.

How Did Dawn Hacheney Die?

Birthed into the world by Donald and Diana Tienhaara on December 5, 1969, in Seattle, Washington, Dawn Marie Tienhaara Hacheney was an intelligent and spiritual person growing up. The free-spirited woman seemingly had a loving childhood, and grew up with the love and support of her parents and siblings. Raised and educated in Bremerton, she graduated from Bremerton Christian School in 1988. Following that, Dawn attended Northwest Bible College in Kirkland for a couple of years and passed out with a bachelor’s degree in Arts.

Image Credit: Oxygen

Dawn had big dreams and aspired to have a bright future. After her graduation, Dawn landed a job at Kitsap Federal Credit Union wherein she served as a loan officer. Being a highly religious person, she had been seeing a man named Nick Hacheney, who was also devoted to God, equally if not more. Their similar beliefs and love for one another led to them getting closer to each other. One thing led to another, and the two decided to spend their future with each other. Dawn and Nick tied the knot on April 20, 1990, in Silverdale in the presence of family and friends. Only a year later, Nick began working at Christ Community Church in Bainbridge as a youth pastor.

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Meanwhile, Dawn worked as a loan officer at a nearby credit union. Since they were smitten with each other, they easily settled into everyday life. Everything was stable and appeared idyllic in the initial years of their life together. However, everything changed around the Christmas of 1997. Just seven years into their marriage, on December 26, 1997, the police received multiple calls about a house being caught on fire. The first responders were quickly arrived at the location.

When they put out the fire and scoured in and around the house to look for any casualties, they came across the 28-year-old Dawn lying on her bed, unresponsive. They soon confirmed her death and sent her body for further tests. They even found a space heater and propane canisters in the bedroom. The toxicology reports revealed that there was no smoke in Dawn’s system, implying that it wasn’t the fire that killed her. Dawn was dead before the house was in flames as she was suffocated with a plastic bag.

Who Killed Dawn Hacheney?

After discovering the body of Dawn Hacheney, the authorities declared her death a tragic accident at first glance, not delving into the details enough. When they soon began investigating further into the matter, the authorities reached out to the husband. They questioned her pastor husband, Nick Hacheney, about his whereabouts during the tragedy. He claimed that he was out hunting when the house got burned, while the propane cans were a Christmas gift from the night before. Even though the investigators were suspicious of Nick Hacheney, they believed his story.

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Owing to lack of evidence and relevant developments, the case began to grow dormant. However, a ray of hope emerged a few years later. The authorities were forced to reopen the case a few years later, in 2001, when Nick’s assistant, Sandra Glass, came to them with a shocking piece of information about her boss. She told them she and Dawn’s husband had been having an affair even when Dawn was alive and in their lives.

Just a couple of weeks into the tragic death of his wife, Nick reportedly confessed to Sandra that after wrapping up with the Christmas celebrations, he gave Dawn some Benadryl. As per Sandra’s claims, Nick also confessed to suffocating Dawn with a plastic bag over her head. After that, Sandra further alleged, he set the place on fire and left for the hunting trip. With smoke coming out of the Hacheney house, the neighbors wasted no time in calling the first responders to put out the fire.

This claim made the investigators take a look at Nick and his history more comprehensively. Although he appeared devastated after his wife’s passing, he didn’t take long before indulging in new romantic interests. According to reports, besides Sandra, he also had sexual relationships with at least two other women, including Nicole Matheson. It was reported that Nick began seeing Nicole after the demise of his wife, Dawn. He even told one of the women that God had given him special privileges and allowed him to indulge in sexual relations with women. Corroborating all the statements from the witnesses and taking into consideration all the pieces of evidence, the authorities charged Nick Hacheney with first-degree premeditated murder in September 2001.

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