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A Twisted Faith

A Twisted Faith: A Minister's Obsession and the Murder That Destroyed a Church - Gregg Olsen I got this book because the crime happened very close to where I live, and I got engrossed in conversation about these events with somebody who knows one of the minor characters.Nobody is really shocked anymore, when stories come out about ministers abusing their positions of power and trust, are they? After thirtysomething years listening to news reports of molested altar boys, televangelists with private jets, and of cult leaders with harems- religious figures abusing trust have become a well-worn stereotype. They were already cliché back in 1997, when the events in this book went down... but this stuff still happened, didn't it? Knowing these things are possible doesn’t seem to put people on their guard. This particular story also includes a murder, so that’s a bit out of the norm, but it doesn’t change the fundamental premise of a depraved minister; it just tweaks the degree of depravity. For me, the drama of reading Twisted Faith does not lay in any amazement that Pastor Nick Hacheney was deeply-flawed and a criminal; it’s just that I want to know the details. What did he say or do to get all these women in the congregation to commit adultery with him? How and why did he murder his wife? How did he get away with it for as long as he did? And How did they finally catch him?Gregg Olsen weaves a pretty good story, filling in the blanks. Some of it you can probably guess: how everybody who knew “Pastor Nick” thought he was a great guy, and are so astounded at what was going on. What you probably won’t guess is the odd church that existed on Bainbridge back in the 1990’s. Bainbridge Island is a pretty wealthy community, so I didn’t expect to read that this “Christ Community Church (CCC)” –which looks like a pretty normal church from the outside- was into stuff like exorcisms (Pastor Nick performs one in the book), and interpreting dreams as literal messages from God. Of special interest to GoodReaders: apparently many church members held some book called The Final Quest in higher esteem than the Bible! Hacheney started as the junior-most of three ministers at CCC in 1995, after graduating from Northwest Bible College (in Kirkland, Flannery!) His new wife, Dawn was with him but it sounds like he didn’t waste much time trying to get busy with other women in the congregation. He started doing marriage counseling to couples, and that was his “in”. His counseling was basically telling the husband to get lost; go read the Bible somewhere, and then Nick and the woman would sit, often just by candlelight (red flag, right?) talking. The pattern seems to be that Nick would listen attentively at first, and would then start telling these women what jerks their husbands were, and how they should be kicked out of the house “to find God”. Then Nick would start showing up nights, because he just found a special Bible verse he had to share right away or “God told me you needed a good listener right now” (when she is conveniently alone). Naturally, the entire time, he’s telling them how beautiful they are, and how their husbands don’t appreciate them. It sounds so transparently like a line, but I guess Nick was pretty charismatic, because it usually worked. If you look at some of the pictures, Pastor Nick is pretty physically repulsive, so I'm thinking his charisma must have been off the charts. Eventually, if things looked promising, he’d move on to “God told me in a dream that he wants us to share physical love” or some damn thing like that. And that’s where I expected him to get punched in the face, but he never did. The ploy worked over and over again. It’s pretty obvious that in addition to being a sociopath, Nick was a sex addict, because some of the reconstructed timelines have him “making the rounds” with three or four victims in a day, and then going back to his wife at night. Yeah... about his wife, Dawn: Nick got to thinking that maybe this whole harem arrangement would work better if she wasn’t around. So… divorce? I guess he thought divorce would be professionally damaging to an up-and-coming young minister; murder seemed like a better option.One winter day, Nick leaves home early to go duck hunting (bastard!) with friends. When he returns, his house has gone up in flames, and Dawn is dead. The police don’t have a high level of suspicion because (1) not much insurance money is involved; (2) no marital problems were known, and Dawn’s family goes on about how wonderful he and Dawn were; and (3) frankly, they cut him a lot of slack because he was a minister. There are actually a lot of loose end details, which the police should have spotted right off (the Hacheneys' life insurance policy wasn't consumed in the housefire because he took it with him duckhunting?!) but I guess they hadn't fully thought it all out. Some of this stuff eventually proved Nick’s undoing, but honestly, the main reason Nick even got caught is that one of his victims eventually got tired of lying to her husband, and started talking. Pretty soon, all the women realized that they weren’t Nick's "only one", and it became this big scandal. This is like two years after the murder, but then the police started taking another look at the case, and one victim eventually came forward with some evidence which I won’t spoil here, which really give the prosecutor a solid case against Nick. It’s a good story, with a few interesting details thrown in about how the Police and Fire Depts investigate these sorts of things. Overall a quick read that will make you feel depressed and maybe a little dirty for having read it. That’s how these true crime books are supposed to feel, aren’t they?