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Slain attorney Dennis Prince’s children: ‘His kids and his job were his entire life’

Updated April 14, 2024 - 11:10 am

The biggest personality in the room. An involved father. An unrivaled drive to succeed.

This is how Susan Barrett, 56, remembered her “very gregarious” ex-husband of over two decades, Dennis Prince, 57.

“I don’t know one other person who has the drive that he did,” Barrett said.

Prince’s second ex-wife, Nancy Bernstein, 54, with whom he shared a 9-year-old son and who was married to Prince for just over four years, from February 2014 until their divorce in July 2018, remembered Prince as a “legal genius,” the “best father” and a “badass all the way around.”

His third ex-wife, Elena Machin-Prince, 52, to whom he was married from March 2019 until July 2023, was processing the killing. “A roller coaster of emotions,” she said.

Prince, a prominent Las Vegas civil attorney, was slain along with his fourth wife Ashley, 30, with whom he shared a baby daughter, at his Summerlin law office on Monday by another lawyer, Joseph Houston II, 77, who then turned the gun on himself.

Family members grieve

Barrett and Prince’s two grown children, Scot, 34, and Taylor, 31, also have been grieving the loss of their father, who in their childhoods coached Scot’s baseball teams and supported Taylor’s equestrian career.

Bernstein said she and Barrett and all of Prince’s children, including the baby girl, have been spending time together.

“He’s very strong. He’s very much like his father,” Bernstein said of her and Prince’s son. “He went to school today, and he’s playing baseball, and he’s doing well, and all the family is together.”

Prince was a scratch golfer, an excellent tennis player and loved riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles, having owned several, Bernstein said.

Bernstein, also a lawyer, is running for Las Vegas justice of the peace. After Prince’s death, she said, she is more determined to win that election in November.

“More than ever, I want to win,” Bernstein said. “Dennis always told me I should do this, I have to do this, and he was very supportive.”

‘We’re obviously horrified’

Barrett, who was married to Prince for almost 23 years, from September 1988 until their divorce in June 2011, shared memories of their life together while also describing how her family was navigating their grief.

Scot, Barrett said, is a UNLV law student who was following in his father’s footsteps to become an attorney and working at his father’s firm, Prince Law Group. But Scot, his mom said, didn’t happen to be in the office on Monday morning.

Taylor, who lives in Boston with her husband and young child, as well as Barrett, who was since remarried and lives in Texas, all flew to Las Vegas on Monday night.

“I mean, we’re obviously horrified,” Barrett said. “It’s the worst of the worst that could possibly happen.”

The grown children, Barrett said, were also with and comforting their young half brother.

“It’s shocking, obviously. I have to stay strong for my son,” Bernstein said about the boy.

For Prince, who was born and raised in Las Vegas and attended Bonanza High School, his main motivator was failure, Barrett said.

“That wasn’t going to happen,” Barrett said. “It wasn’t an option.”

Barrett recalled she and Prince raising their family as his career took off.

After their marriage, and after Prince got a degree in finance from UNLV, the two Vegas natives would move to San Diego in about 1990 so that Prince could go to law school.

Barrett supported the family financially while Prince got his law degree at California Western School of Law.

“I put him through law school,” she said.

After he graduated in about 1993, she recalled, the couple moved back to Vegas with their family that now included the young Taylor and Scot.

Those were good years, Barrett said. “They were actually the best,” she said, her voice becoming emotional.

Barrett declined to say why she and Prince were divorced, but she said she and her ex-husband had an amicable relationship as co-parents.

“He told all his wives that if it weren’t for me, he wouldn’t be who he is,” Barrett said.

In his career, Prince would go on to become one of the best-regarded civil litigators in Nevada, his colleagues have said.

“Dennis was a heavyweight,” said John Curtas, a deputy city attorney for the city of Las Vegas who said he had known Prince for years.

‘One speed: All in’

His adult children, Scot Prince and Taylor Prince See, described their dad as a fun, larger-than-life man who always made time for his family despite his demanding career.

“His kids and his job were his entire life,” said Scot Prince, 34. “He knows how to be a dad. He knows how to be a lawyer. And that’s all he cared about.”

He coached Scot’s baseball team and supported his 9-year-old son in the sport, as well. He would also take off from work anytime to support his eldest daughter in her equestrian competitions.

Prince See and her horse, One Flashy Sensation, won world championships in the sport. Prince See said her dad would give her pep talks and quiz her before each event.

“He was such a partner with me in that sport,” she said.

He enjoyed becoming a grandfather to his grandson, and during the holidays, he and his kids often found themselves sitting around the fire pit, drinking red wine and reminiscing.

“He just had the best stories, and the best laugh in the world,” said Prince See, 31. “You could get him going and going and he would almost gargle.”

In the courtroom, Dennis Prince took his obligation to his clients seriously.

“When he sets his mind on something, there’s no option, there’s no failure,” Prince See said. “That’s what he does, head on and full steam.”

Scot Prince said he and his dad grew closer when they began working together at the law firm. He instilled in his kids the value of hard work — that there were no shortcuts and to always approach life with intensity.

“He only had one speed: All in,” Scot Prince said.

Dennis Prince was proud of his son for taking the step to go to law school. He often said: “I love this path that you’re on.” Scot Prince graduates next month.

“I’m devastated that he won’t be able to be there,” he said. “I thought we were gonna work together until the end.”

Though he knows he can never take his dad’s place, Scot Prince said his two youngest siblings are being loved and well taken care of.

“I’m going to put on my Dennis Prince shoes,” he said. “I have some of that fire that he has inside me.”

‘It kind of woke me up’

Las Vegas Review-Journal archives, which document some of the cases Prince was involved in, also contain mentions of Prince’s high school tennis career, including a Sept. 30, 1982, article in which Prince spoke about entering his first tournament two weeks after picking up a racket for the first time, getting beaten, and then vowing to put the work in.

“I didn’t go into it with the idea of winning, but I didn’t think I’d get beat that bad,” the then-15-year-old Prince said. “I didn’t quit, though. I went back and started working harder. It kind of woke me up.”

In 2015, Prince represented a former UNLV football player who was awarded more than $4.2 million after a botched spinal surgery.

In 2016, a Las Vegas mechanic represented by Prince was awarded $6.6 million after a lawsuit accusing a local doctor of striking his car.

In 2017, a 70-year-old man represented by Prince was awarded $1.95 million after a few bacon-wrapped scallops eaten at a Las Vegas country club resulted in multiple surgeries after a broken toothpick became lodged in his abdominal cavity.

The former UNLV football player, Beau Orth, 34, said he and Prince became friends after his yearslong legal saga ended. The two would get together for a drink and a cigar and just talk about life, Orth said. They had been texting in February in an effort to set up a double date with their two wives.

“It’s extremely sad,” Orth said. “I love Dennis. He was a very good friend of mine. He was a mentor.”

Orth said the last time they saw each other was last summer in San Diego, when Orth and his wife had breakfast with Dennis and Ashley, who Orth said was very nice and welcoming, after both couples happened to attend the same Morgan Wallen concert.

“He was a bulldog,” Orth said of his former attorney. “He was there for you when you had no ground to stand on.”

Prince’s career hasn’t been without controversy.

In January 2020, he was reprimanded by the State Bar of Nevada after a firm partner at Eglet, Prince, the firm he shared with Robert Eglet, another prominent Las Vegas civil attorney, discovered in January 2019 that Prince had been using a firm-issued American Express card for personal expenses, according to the Letter of Reprimand the bar issued against Prince.

Prince reimbursed the firm over $136,000 but the state bar said in the letter it was “concerned with your conduct as it relates to the use of the card” and reprimanded Prince.

His legal work continued.

In January, Prince was representing the parents of a teen girl who filed a lawsuit against the Clark County School District and teachers union, alleging they protect teachers accused of sexual misconduct by allowing them to transfer to other schools.

“It requires civil cases just like this to effectuate change,” Prince told the Review-Journal at the time.

Contact Brett Clarkson at bclarkson@reviewjournal.com.

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