ABERDEEN, Idaho—Andrea and Gary Myler know the searing pain of betrayal upon having a son-in-law accused of murdering his wife. They have been there.
As they watch the unfolding story of Mark Hacking and the alleged murder of his wife, Lori, the Mylers find themselves taken back eight years to another Utah case of a husband who wanted his wife dead.
On Aug. 28, 1996, 24-year-old Jill Allen was murdered in her North Salt Lake apartment by one of two construction workers who later testified that they were offered up to $40,000 by her husband, Paul Allen, to have her killed. More than three years after her death, a jury found Paul Allen guilty of murder and sentenced him to life in prison with the possibility of parole, sparing him punishment for capital murder.
Sitting under an apple tree outside their rural Idaho home, a tree that provided shade to Jill and others during family get-togethers, Gary and Andrea Myler offer some advice to the parents of Lori Hacking: Turn to your faith to pull you through, find support in your family and never let the "What-ifs?" take over.
Stepfather Gary Myler, who raised Jill, said Lori Hacking's parents should be prepared to make this murder case a constant part of their lives for at least the next decade. After eight years the Mylers still are involved in Paul Allen's appeal for a new trial.
Paul Allen has maintained his innocence, and his family has stood by him. Attorneys for Paul Allen recently filed briefs with the Utah Supreme Court asking for a new trial.
"It's definitely going to be a roller coaster for them as they go through the trial. I see them watching this boy try to prove that he's insane some way with the defense," Gary Myler said.
"One thing they need to realize is that it's going to take a long time. Our justice system is very slow, and they seem to give the accused every opportunity to get away with it. Our justice system bends over backwards to see that their rights are not infringed upon, and that's going to irritate them," Andrea Myler said.
Construction worker Joseph Wright testified that Paul Allen approached him to find someone to kill his wife. Wright then recruited his friend George Anthony Taylor to do the job. The two testified that Paul Allen had supplied them a key to his North Salt Lake apartment with instructions that the murder was to look like a robbery.
Davis County prosecutors claimed Paul Allen hoped to collect on a $250,000 life insurance policy he had on his wife.
In tearful testimony, Taylor described how he waited inside the dark apartment for his victim to come home from work. After breaking his gun while pistol-whipping her, Taylor said he resorted to beating her in the head with a baseball bat. But Jill kept fighting, he said. Finally he strangled her with a belt.
Returning from a boat trip, Paul Allen found his wife beaten beyond recognition.
Andrea Myler said she still remembers offering her shoulder to her son-in-law to cry on at her daughter's funeral.
She also felt that something was not right. Andrea Myler said she spent a lot of time time comforting Paul Allen but got no sympathy or support in return.
"I'd call and talk to him and I said, 'How are you doing?' and he said, 'You know, every day gets a little better,' and I said, 'You're kidding, for me every day is worse.' "
By the time police arrested Allen for his wife's murder a year later, Andrea Myler said her family wasn't surprised but remained in a state of disbelief.
"To our family, Paul appeared to be such a good guy, and people would say, 'Didn't you see any of this coming?' . . . No, they are so deceitful and are so good at covering it up; so good at making themselves appear good that you don't see it coming," she said. "It's the last thing in the world that you think that they would murder. You think that the marriage is just going to break up."
Gary Myler said he has been haunted by "What-ifs?": What if they had called earlier; what if they missed early signs. "It goes on in your mind, over and over again. You need to think about something else, you need to talk to people about it. Because if you don't, it'll cave the sides of your head in," he said.
Ultimately, it was their faith that saw them through all the threats of a mistrial to delays in the case.
"Through all these little mazes traveled by attorneys, it finally gets down to your own heart and mind. The Lord is still over this," Gary Myler said.
Andrea said Lori Hacking's mother should never let up in pushing detectives and prosecutors about advances in the case. And she warned that the press and the public are going to judge Lori's character by the actions of her family members.
Forgiveness will also come into play in the Hacking case.
"In a way you have to come to a certain level of forgiveness, or understanding," Gary Myler said. "If you let it destroy you from the inside out, your hatred and everything you build up toward them, it will destroy you."