Justice for Dana

Dana Patterson

John Mackay, 44, Nichole Houchin, 37, Nace Houchin, 35, and Gregory Crawford, 26, were all sentenced on Tuesday in the Williamsburg-James City County (Virginia) Circuit Court on charges they faced in the brutal 2013 murder-for-hire scheme that took the life of Gordon County native and 1989 graduate of Gordon Central High School, Dana Patterson.

John Mackay, who was a Fort Eustis staff sergeant at the time of the murder, and the Houchins were all sentenced to life in prison, but each of them will serve less time due to a plea deal that was bargained with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office. Mackay will serve 28 years and two months; Nicole Houchin will serve 23 years and 11 months; and Nace Houchin, who was the one accused of beating Patterson to death, will serve 40 years. Crawford was sentenced to 20 years with 17 years to sever and five additional years on probation for the role he played in the murder.

Patterson was married to John Mackay at the time of her death, but had recently discovered her husband having an affair with Nicole Houchin. During police interviews, John Mackay and Nicole Houchin admitted they had fantasized about Patterson’s death. Documents from the interviews revealed more about those conversations leading up to Patterson’s death.

On July 24, 2013, Mackay wrote in an email, “Will her be gone before I get back?” and “I’ll be forever in debt to you and will show you every day.”

Houchin responded, “Trying to make it happen asap.”

Mackay left on a business trip, but told Houchin that entry into his home could be made through the rear garage door, according to the interview records.

According to authorities, on the night of July 27, 2013, the Houchins and Crawford, a coworker of Nicole Houchin, broke into the Mackay’s home in the Seasons Trace subdivision. Nicole Houchin and Crawford stayed downstairs and ransacked the living room so it looked as if a robbery had been committed. Nace Houchin traveled upstairs and attacked Patterson in her bedroom, where she was sleeping, recovering from a recent surgery.

Records indicate that Mackay talked to Nicole Houchin on the phone on July 27, 2013, where Nicole told him, “It’s done,” and “There was a lot of screaming.”

According to the criminal complaint filed against Nicole Houchin, a neighbor checked on Dana Patterson at her mother’s request. After walking through the back door, she discovered Patterson’s body lying in the bedroom with multiple stab wounds.

Steven Pearson, Patterson’s stepfather, took the stand four times on Tuesday to explain to the court the effects Dana’s death has had on the family. “We are satisfied with the sentences,” said Pearson on Wednesday. “We deeply love and appreciate our family, friends and the community who have traveled with us on this journey to Justice For Dana.”