The Tragic 1993 Unsolved Murder Of Elvis Impersonator, Dana MacKay

Even though crimes often have logic or reasoning behind them, some crimes just don't add up. Take the case of Dana MacKay, Elvis devotee and impersonator who went grocery shopping one day, came home, and was found shot dead in his entryway along with girlfriend Mary Huffman in 1993. As the Daily Mail explains, friends called the police after the couple hadn't been heard from for a couple days. Police found steaks, bananas, and laundry detergent in grocery bags near the two bodies. Nothing was taken from the house, a mansion in Las Vegas dubbed Mini-Graceland, though police decreed the crime a robbery gone wrong. Nothing was taken, that is, except a single manilla folder containing records of MacKay's businesses. The case was never solved.

If this tale doesn't sound like the setup for a mystery novel, few cases would. Fifteen years later in 2008, Detective George Sherwood told the Las Vegas Sun that he thought the bungled burglary angle was bogus. "I don't believe it," he said. "Somebody was lying in wait for them." Given that MacKay and Huffman were found right in their entryway having just arrived from shopping, this evaluation sounds right. On top of this, the Daily Mail said that MacKay's daughter, Misty Vargas, stated that she thinks she knows the identity of the killer, and that the police are protecting them because of something-something shady dealings and business-related chicanery. Given the lack of stolen goods except for MacKay's business folder, this sounds right, too.    

Shot dead at Mini-Graceland

The Las Vegas Sun goes into detail about Dana MacKay's life, one colorful enough for a professional Elvis impersonator. He sang, danced, had a backup band, actually looked like Elvis, performed high-profile shows, wore jumpsuits, did recordings of Elvis' music, and even played Elvis in the 1981 documentary, "This is Elvis." MacKay built a stucco-coated mansion on a palm tree-filled property in Las Vegas and dubbed it Mini-Graceland. He had a thing for palm trees, in fact, and had visions of a Las Vegas filled with them — this was in the early '90s when palm trees didn't exist on the Las Vegas Strip. And to make his visions real, MacKay formed a landscaping business along with his friend Tim Stone in December 1992: Paradise Palms Co. Five months later, MacKay and Stone went their separate ways. By October 1993 MacKay was dead.

This information alone provides a compelling narrative of suspicious financial dealings, those dealings going wrong, betrayal, cover-up, etc. And to be sure, this is what many suspect, if not outright believe. Detective George Sherwood in the Las Vegas Sun points to some odd facts pertaining to MacKay's death that don't add up and indicate something beyond a mere botched burglary. As mentioned, the supposed burglars didn't burgle anything, including jewelry and wallets that MacKay and Mary Huffman had on them. These burglars also left their guns behind, which burglars never do. The shootings were also done at close range.

Suspicions of a cover-up

As the Las Vegas Sun reports, tabloids at the time picked up on the suspicious circumstances surrounding Dana MacKay and Mary Huffman's death and dubbed them a "gangland-style execution." The podcast "True Crime Deadline" — one of multiple outlets that have covered this story — has a newspaper clipping from the time saying that MacKay and Huffman were shot in the head, but other sources lack this information. 

Along these lines, the Toronto Sun describes MacKay's dispute with his friend and business partner Tim Stone. Despite being "America's first Elvis impersonator" — as the Las Vegas Sun describes MacKay's status — he was short on the funds needed to start Paradise Palms Co. As part of he and Stone's arrangement, Stone helped front the initial $100,000 needed for landscaping equipment, while MacKay lent his business know-how. In a later, official court proceeding, MacKay claimed that Stone had gone into their business in bad faith, wanting only to "obtain my contacts for trees, learn my expertise, and establish his own palm tree company."

This is why, as the Toronto Sun continues, some investigators believe that someone hired an assassin to kill MacKay and Huffman. Speaking of MacKay's stolen manilla folder full of business documents, Detective George Sherwood said, "Somebody wanted that folder, and somebody wanted Dana." MacKay's daughter Misty Vargas further claimed that the investigation into the deaths went nowhere because of the perpetrator's "connections." To date, no progress has been made on MacKay's case whatsoever.