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In the weeks and months before youth pastor Nick Hackney's wife Dawn died in a fire in the couple's bedroom, Nick had been leading marriage counseling sessions with Annette and Craig Anderson. The couple could not have known that the private time they spent with Nick would become the subject of a very public investigation. Less than a month after dawn died, Annette says Nick came onto her. She resisted but was sympathetic, thinking it was all some inappropriate but understandable reaction to his wife's death. Over the next week or so, Annette says Nick continued making subtle but suggestive comments to her. Then came a day Annette says she will never forget. She was with Nick at the gym when it happened.


He pulled me into a tanning room and kissed me.


And you kissed him back?


I did, because, well, he changed his tone from troubled person who was weak and saying stupid things to talking about a plan that God had and how God was doing different things now, and that in his calling, he felt like God wanted us to be together intimately.


Annette says she told him, that's crazy, and I'm married. She recalls Nick responding that it was what God wanted. The recently bereaved Nick Hackney was using the almighty as a wingman, Annette says. Eventually, Nick suggested they meet up in a hotel room.


He said, that's all God wants. This one time that made sense to you? No, not really. But I was kind of in a mode, know, taking this big risk.


By then you'd agreed, right?




She had agreed, even though she says she was not seriously attracted to Nick and that her relationship with her husband Craig was just fine.


This was all about Nick and what he needed, right?


In this episode, you'll hear about surprising choices.


He was able to get these women to do these incredible things, to break their marital vows, to give him money, to do all sorts of things that don't make sense. It doesn't fit their personality. Except he was so good at pulling.


Them in the emotional damage that can come from keeping secrets.


There were several times when I didn't want to be in this world anymore. There were times I'd have suicidal thoughts.


And a church member who could foretell the future.


I thought, why would these people accept all these prophecies at face value? They are waiting for that earthquake. The earthquake's going to come. It's going to decimate Seattle. They still alter their lives with no proof, just faith.


I'm Josh Manikowitz, and this is mortal sin, a podcast from Dateline, episode two, lust. Annette Anderson says a big component of the choices she made about Nick had to do with the undeniable fact that his wife had just died, and Annette felt sorry for him. Now she had agreed to take things to another level with her pastor.


So you meet Nick at the hotel. What's that like? Fun, sexy, intriguing.


Biggest mistake of my life. I wouldn't characterize it as any of those things. It was know. It's hard to look back on and remember it in any way at all.


But at the time, you talked yourself into believing you were doing the Lord's work, right. How'd you feel?


It was a feeling of having jumped over a know.


You told Nick that was the only time you were going to do that, right. But that wasn't the only time, right?


Annette says their sexual relationship lasted the better part of a year. At one point, she went so far as to give one of her children cold medicine to put them to sleep one evening so she could go see Nick. It was, she says, nick's idea. Annette regrets it.


That was a terrible, terrible. That was, you know, part of the progression of disturbing things going on. Definitely.


If you're wondering how far Nick's interpretation of God's plan went, know this. Nick didn't want it made public, so Annette did not tell her husband about any of it.


Hard to keep that secret.




Just terrible.


What'd that do to you?


It wrecked me. It completely destroyed me. It took me down lower than really I would have thought I could survive. He had the spiritual power. I consider it to be a hideous spiritual abuse, yet it was extremely destructive.


Annette wasn't alone. There was another woman in the congregation who'd gotten very close to Nick, and she was about the last person on earth you'd expect.


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At the same time Nick was involved with Annette, he'd also begun a physical relationship with another church member, Nicole Matheson. This was in January of 1998, the month after dawn died. And even as Nick was with Annette and Nicole, he was more quietly pursuing a relationship via email and telephone with a young parishioner named Lindsay Smith. Now, Nick was living very dangerously here as well, because Lindsay was Pastor Bob Smith's 20 year old daughter. She'd left for South Africa a few days after the fire author Greg Olsen.


She's a young girl, she's going off on a mission trip. She is trusting and naive.


And Nick starts sending her these emails suggesting that they've fallen in love.


Then Nick started working on her and the emails get more explicit.


Perhaps because she was thousands of miles away in South Africa. The relationship between Nick and Lindsay never developed. As busy as Nick seemed to be juggling relationships in early 1998, he somehow found time to stay in touch with Dawn's family, including his mother in law, Diana Parmley.


He was always there if we needed help with anything, just practical things like we needed a new garage door. So he was there. He installed, because he had done that kind of work and so he installed the new garage door for us. He helped out with my middle son, with Darren and Corey's wedding.


So this is a guy who very much sort of considered himself to still be part of her family.




That must have felt great to have him stick around.


Yeah, like that.


And when Nick would stop by, it was clear to Diana that the pain of losing dawn was a bond they shared.


I look into those big eyes of his and think know I was seeing just the depth of his sadness in his eyes and know wanted to be a comfort to him because I believed know dawn was everything to him just.


As she was to you.


Diana says she wanted to help Nick through his pain. So this is what she said to him.


I told Nick at the time, I said that I was hoping that I could be dawn for him. And he told me. Then in response, he said, no. He says, I don't want you to be Dawn. I want you to be yourself. And he said he wanted to love both of us.


Both of them. It turned out Nick meant that literally and physically. He began a relationship with his dead wife's mother. Normally, mothers in law would be off limits for an affair. However, as you've perhaps sensed already, very little of Nick Hackney's behavior at Christ community church might be classified as normal.


You said earlier that after dawn died that you wanted to be a comfort to Nick. I do not doubt for a minute that you did want to be a comfort to Nick. But you got to help me understand what form that took, okay?


That's probably the most guilt that I carry now with me is my relationship with Nick.


I'm not sure you should be feeling any guilt about this.


So I've been told. But still I do. Well, I mean, look, I've been told that I was a victim.


Well, let me ask you this. In trying to be a comfort to Nick. You ended up being sexually intimate with him. Would that have happened if you'd known about all the other relationships Nick was having? I think not.


I asked Diana whether she made her choices because Nick was a man of God.


What happened between Nick and I, it had nothing to do with the fact that he was a man of God. No. Even if he hadn't had been okay, I mean, just the fact that he was a man that had lost his wife, that I believed they were deeply in love, was very close to him. And it was an accident, the loss. And I was hoping somehow, just as a comforting thing, that I could ease. Ease that for him.


Diana came to deeply regret the relationship. She says it brought her to a brink.


And there were several times when I just. I didn't want to be in this world anymore. I will admit that there were times I'd have suicidal thoughts, even because of the lifestyle that I was leading. It also led to the end of my marriage because my husband had found out what I had been doing. So he finally said that he would give me a divorce. But it wasn't mean, you know, that of course, the divorce. And then it affected Don's brothers as well. The loss of their sister, I'm sure.


Author Greg Olson.


The thing about those women, none of them know that he was going from place to place, emailing Lindsay about how much he was in love with her or going over to seduce Annette or be with Nicole. I mean, it was like one after another. And every day he's off somewhere new. But the truth is, it's not about anything but what he's giving them. So he makes them feel great. He makes them feel loved, special, and know headed for something more important than just being somebody's wife. Maybe some spiritual importance of some kind.


Remember, even before dawn died, Nick was spending a lot of time with other women from Christ community church. Supposedly that was because they needed spiritual guidance, which he provided. Dawn's friends say she was aware of that, but seemed unaware of the depth of Nick's involvement with.


So while Nick was doing this, while he was counseling these women and talking about sex and doing goodness knows what else, Dawn, Nick's wife, was what, babysitting these women's right.


That's right. She didn't know what she was really helping. I mean, she did. They coughed up money to send these people away on a retreat, or she would watch the kids, or she'd make food for them or bring them stuff, pick up Nick, do all that stuff. She had no idea, of course, what her husband was up to well, but.


She knew her husband wasn't home. And what, just didn't have the strength to. No. No, that's wrong. I need you here.


I think he was a good convincer. He convinced her that these people really need me. Dawn, she's really in a world of hurt. I gotta go to her right now.


A good convincer. Maybe that's why dawn continued to support her husband. And why after dawn died, it never occurred to Annette Anderson that Nick might be stepping into other marriages besides her own.


You didn't look back and think, well, maybe that was happening with somebody else too?


No, I didn't think it really could have. Because why would he need sex with me if he was getting sex with somebody else? But I was wrapped up in a very small mindset rather than a larger picture.


Truth be told, Nick Hackney seemed an unlikely lothario, says author Greg Olson.


Oh, my gosh, take a look at him. He is completely unlikely. People ask me all the time, was he handsome? What was it that made him get all those women to come to him? And it wasn't anything about his looks. It was about what he could give them, which was maybe a shoulder to cry on, or maybe spiritual guidance. Whatever it is they really needed, that's what he had. He was able to get these women to do these incredible things, to break their marital vows, to give him money, to do all sorts of things that don't make sense. It doesn't fit their personality. Except he was so good at pulling them in.


Or they were so ripe to be pulled in. I mean, all he had to tell them was that it was in the name of the Lord. And all of a sudden, nothing else made any sense to them. Nothing made any difference. He's not the first guy to sort of use God's name to get his way sexually.




And yet, in some way, this betrayal seems so much worse than what I've heard from other people in other stories, other cities, other places. He wasn't just using God's name to have his way sexually with these women. He was using the sympathy that they felt for him. See, he was using their own goodness. It's pretty against him.


Yeah. I mean, it's really heartbreaking because I know all of those women thought they were helping him and didn't know the depth of the betrayal until years later. And know they feel foolish and stupid and used, and it's no reflection on them, any of those things they were.


Taken in after Dawn's death. Nick's involvement with multiple women is not by itself, terribly suspicious. However, there was also a woman with whom Nick had an affair before his wife died. Now that, dear listener, well, that would qualify as suspicious.


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Nick Hackney had been hired as youth pastor at Christ Community Church back in the early ninety s. That was shortly after he and dawn had been married by the church's founder, Pastor Bob Smith. Smith was much beloved by the church community. Some felt Nick was almost like a son to Pastor Bob. By 1997. But before Dawn's death, another pastor had gained a lot of influence at Christ community. A biblical scholar and self proclaimed apostle named Robert Byley.


What does it mean you're an apostle?


Well, it has to do with an office in the church. And apostles have the primary responsibility to uphold the canon of scripture, to make sure it's understood correctly and taught and passed on from generation to generation.


When Byley first came to the church in 1990, he says he just wanted to serve and attend services.


My intention in coming here was to be here a short time.


And you ended up staying.


It seemed that that was what God wanted me to do. I was there for several years, probably six or seven, before they voted to make me senior minister of the entire operation.


Annette and Craig Anderson say Christ Community Church was unlike any they had ever attended.


It was charismatic, meaning for the uninitiated, charismatic would be an emphasis on signs and wonders, which literally signs and wonders. So God would manifest himself in something. You could see a manifestation of speaking in tongues, which would be babbling. It would be supposedly a language that one should interpret.


But people were speaking in tongues.




During church service.


Yeah. And afterwards we'd have long altar calls where people would go up to the front seeking healing or help in some way, support in some way. And there was speaking in tongues up there.


There was something else about Christ community. Church members of the congregation believed that God spoke to them directly and prophetically.


Yeah. He would give them a word, they would call it.


Before you joined that church, had you ever had a word from God before?


No, I'd never really heard of that, except for in the Bible.


Which brings us to a woman named Sandy Glass. Sandy was a secretary at Christ Community Church. She was in her thirties then and lanky, with shaggy brown hair and a wry smile. She was married to Jimmy Glass, a carpenter with whom she was raising four boys.


Yeah, Sandy's an interesting one. I mean, she's a quiet woman who is a, you know. She was self professed prophetess of the church.


Prophetess? Well, to the members of Christ community, the gift of prophecy was accepted. Some people had it, some did not. Sandy wasn't the only one at Christ community who'd been blessed with special foresight. Church apostle Robert Byley.


One of the charismatic gifts is the gift of prophecy, where you hear an inspirational word from the Holy Spirit or from the Lord, and it's talked about in the Bible as a gift of the Holy Spirit, where you can hear prophecy or instruction or direction or just encouragement or comfort from the spirit directly to you. And it's a Bible teaching, so we don't shut that down. We feel since it's in the Scripture, you have to appreciate it. So she had prophecies, and it was a biblical thing for her to have.


And when this church secretary and visionary spoke, people listened. Like the time Sandy foretold an impending earthquake, it wasn't as out there as it seems. Seattle does sit on a major fault line. And other church members who also claimed the gift of prophecy had themselves predicted a quake. Church leaders took all of it quite seriously.


We had a council meeting, we had a board meeting. We talked about, what do we do with this? Do we say nothing? And then if there is a major quake, people are going to say to us, why didn't you warn us? Or do we say something just preparatory, like, get some food, get some water, what's the right course? So we decided collectively that it was wise to tell people, get some extra food and water. That's the prudent thing to do.


The Andersons and other parishioners were spurred to action.


So you stockpiled a ton of food waiting for this earthquake that hasn't happened yet?




How much that cost you?


Oh, hundreds and hundreds. Thousands of dollars for sure. Each family.




I thought, why would these people accept all these prophecies at face value? They are waiting for that earthquake. The earthquake's going to come. It's going to decimate Seattle. Of course, none of that happens, but they still alter their lives. They change their commute habits, they make plans for a future that includes all this with no proof. No, just faith.


And after it's clear that it hasn't happened. Certainly hasn't happened on the timetable Sandy laid out. They still believe everything she says.


That's right.


The earthquake never did strike. Something else was going to shake Christ community. Surely no one could have predicted what would happen as 1997 unfolded. No one. Right.


Here's the key to this church and all of these people I talk to, they are all nice, kind people, Josh. You'd like them. You'd like every single one of them. They wanted so much to do right and do better and be helpful, that when their church told them things, they thought, well, they know, know. This pastor knows better than I do, so I'll follow their rule.


How could anybody today, these days, read the stories about the sex scandals in the catholic church, read about all sorts of transgressions that have occurred sort of under the cloak of biblical authority, and think to themselves, I do not need to question anything that comes from my church.


It's like that frog in the cold water with the heat on high. It doesn't know what's happening. It doesn't know it's going to boil up until it's too late. And that's what I feel happened with these people. All of them are in the moment. They're singing their hymns, they're saying their prayers, and they're getting caught up in something just a notch at a time until it seems like it's too late to turn back. And I've got to believe all of this stuff.


So the big sin of everybody in that church was that they weren't cynical enough.


That's right. They were trusting and they wanted to follow their leaders.


There's a photograph from the Annette and another woman sitting on a park bench. They're relaxing next to each other, wearing jeans. A green tricycle is in the background. Maybe they were at the park watching their children at play. This was back before dawn died, back when life made better sense. The woman sitting next to Annette is Sandy Glass, the church prophetess. By early 1997, the year dawn died, Sandy Glass and her husband Jimmy had hit some bumps in their twelve year marriage. Nick Hackney was helping the couple down that rocky road. By spring, Sandy and Jimmy were meeting with Nick, together and separately, maybe half a dozen times over that summer. Sandy says she began to have feelings for Nick and told him so. Then one day he kissed her in his office. In the fall, when Nick pulled off the road during a drive, their relationship became sexual. After that, they continued to meet in person at her home, in the church office, even in the church sanctuary. Their tristing place was usually a parked car. Again, this was before dawn died, and therefore also before Nick took up with Annette Anderson. The lovers were discreet, but perhaps not careful enough.


There were whispers in the church community about Nick and Sandy. Pastor Robert Byley says he got a call from Sandy's husband's parents, who were concerned that Nick was spending a lot of time with her. Byley remembers the call and what he made of it.


It could have been innocent. We weren't judging the fact up front that it was wrong on its face value, but it was just not normal, and it was upsetting people. And as senior minister, I have an obligation to all the congregation, so I was trying to deal with this in a way that would helpfully calm the situation and satisfy those that were involved.


How soon after that do you talk to Nick?




Next day, same day, Miley says he told Nick to knock it off, and Nick seemed to agree. Annette Anderson knew nothing about Sandy's involvement with Nick. So later, when she told Nick she needed some advice about handling their affair, Annette didn't bat an eye. When Nick suggested she speak with Sandy glass, a woman with whom Nick was having an affair at that very moment.


I knew Sandy. We were, were, you know, within the small buddy of people that knew each other. But she hadn't been a person I would have picked up the phone and talked to at all.


But when you say to Nick that you need somebody to talk to about the turmoil that you're experiencing as a result of the affair that he's gotten you into, he says, I'll give you Sandy. Talk to Sandy.




He suggested that she was somebody that he could trust implicitly and that he was going to give me this person to take care of me in this horrible state that I was now in.


That you were now in because you'd been cheating on your husband with your pastor.




Annette says she simply had not given any weight to the gossip at church.


I believed him and I believed her. I considered them to be super spiritual and really incapable of doing wrong. I don't know. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me to look back on it, but, yeah, I didn't think that they had done anything.


When did you figure out that Nick and Sandy had been lovers?


Years later.


He never told you?




So how did Annette find out? Sandy told her, and she was about to tell other people, too. Four years after Dawn's death, Sandy went to the police.


She actually arranged to come into the department and provided information about Don's death.


At that point, this was a closed case. This was an accident.




But Sandy Glass changed everything she did.


Mortal Sin is a production of Dateline and NBC News. Jessica Knoll is the producer. Brian Drew, Kelly Laudine and Marshall Housefeld are audio editors. Carson Cummins and Keanu Reed are associate producers. Adam Gorfain is co executive producer, Liz Cole is executive producer and David Corvo is senior executive producer. From NBC News, audio sound mixing by Bob Mall and Catherine Anderson. Bryson Barnes is head of audio production.