UPDATE: High Court Rules in Kitsap Murder Case

The state supreme court today vacated the aggravated portion of a murder conviction against a Bainbridge Island preacher who strangled his wife to death in 1997.

Dawn Hacheney’s body was found badly burned on Dec. 26, 1997 in an East Bremerton home, and investigators first concluded she’d died in an accidental fire. Four years later, however, a woman came forward alleging Dawn’s husband, Nicholas Hacheney (pictured), was having an affair and he had drugged Dawn and strangled her with a plastic bag before setting their home on fire.


Nicholas Hacheney was convicted of first-degree aggravated murder after a seven-week trial in Kitsap County Superior Court on Dec. 27, 2002. Jurors had decided on the aggravated conviction — which mandates a life sentence in Washington without the possibility of parole — because of the commission of the second felony of arson, according to the supreme court decision.

But six justices voted to overturn that conviction, stating that since the death was not in part caused by the felony of arson, the jury shouldn’t have been allowed to give him an aggravating life sentence because “Dawn was dead before the fire was set.”

“This court has held that in order for a death to have occurred in the course of a felony, there must be a causal connection such that the death was a probable consequence of that felony,” Judge Bobbe J. Bridge wrote in the majority opinion.

The case will be sent back to Kitsap County Superior Court in the coming months, where Hacheney will be re-sentenced for first-degree murder, which carries a standard range of 20 to 26 years.

Bridge was joined by Justices Tom Chambers, Mary E. Fairhurst, Susan J. Owens, Richard B. Sanders and Chief Justice Gerry L. Alexander. Barbara A. Madsen dissented while James M. Johnson had a mixed decision. Justice Charles W. Johnson appears absent from a decision in court documents.

UPDATE: It’s a small one, but I thought I’d point it out for those following this case. Bridge, who wrote the majority opinion, announced her retirement from the court a day after the opinion was released, according to the Washington Courts web site. She is to become the founding president of the Center for Children and Youth Justice. She’d been a supreme court justice since 1999.

7 thoughts on “UPDATE: High Court Rules in Kitsap Murder Case

  1. I think it’s ridiculous that our justice system has now given the CRIMINAL the leg up!! How moronic IS our so-called justice system??? Nick Hacheney should burn in hell for what he did to Dawn and no judge should be allowed to alter that fact. He took a life so he should have to give his life! Our justice system is so messed up that the criminals have more loopholes to get out of doing their time for the crimes they commit. It shouldn’t matter that Dawn was dead BEFORE the fire!! Nick killed her!!! End of story!! This type of injustice makes me want to leave America to go to a country where they actually MAKE the criminals do their time…with NO appeals!!

    I hope that anyone who reads this story understands exactly what Nick has done and DOES NOT side with the so-called Supreme Court!! If you do side with them, I feel sorry for you because you must not realize that you truly have no one looking out for YOUR safety and best interest! If something terrible happens to you or your loved ones, it is highly likely that the criminal will get away with it…maybe not completely but to some extent they will!

  2. Bet, he gets less time than Forder if she is convicted. They both hid behind the cloth in different ways.

  3. The supreme court has failed, and Dawn Hacheney has suffered another indignity, even in death.

    Nick is exactly where he belongs. To commute his sentence brings no validity to him whatsoever. He is and always will be, a murderer, liar, and abuser.

  4. “first-degree murder, which carries a standard range of 20 to 26 years”

    REALLY? I had no idea you can plan (First Degree!) to kill someone and spend as little as 20 years in prison for taking a life. That is beyond appalling. And how much time off for good behavior? Is a sentence of 20 years actually 20 years, or is it really 10? With time already served he could be out pretty soon, how lovely. (Even if 20 = 20, that’s still too soon.)

    I am so sorry for Dawn’s family and friends, they must feel victimized all over again.

  5. Dawn was my niece. I shall always remember the sweet, shy little girl she was while playing with her cousins. Thank God that one day Nick will have to answer to a higher authority than our pathetic justice system! He will get his due, of this we are certain. May it be in this life also.

  6. Wow! 20 to 26 years for first degree murder. Aggravated being in the course of a felony. I would think a death happening while suffocating someone, would be considered in the course of a felony.

  7. Why isn’t suffocating a person to death called a felony murder?
    Had he burned her alive, would that be called a felony murder?
    What am I missing here?
    Sharon O’Hara

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