Salt Lake Tribune: Kin trying to keep the focus on Lori
Missing woman: Mark Hacking's academics deception may not be linked to Lori's disappearance, and family urges the search to go on
As the search goes on for Lori Hacking, in what Salt Lake City police continue to label a missing persons case, more questions arose Thursday about her husband, Mark Hacking, and statements he has made about his wife's disappearance.
On Monday morning, Mark Hacking called police to report that his wife had disappeared while jogging in or near City Creek Canyon.
At about the same time Monday morning, Mark Hacking reportedly was seen buying a new mattress at a store in South Salt Lake.
Detective Dwayne Baird said Thursday that Hacking's actions before and after Lori Hacking vanished—combined with an elaborate deception in which he apparently falsely told his family he had graduated from college and been accepted into medical school—have contributed to a heightened investigative interest in him.
"He is a person of interest because of the fact that there are discrepancies," Baird said. He called the medical school deception—first revealed on Wednesday—"the tip of the pyramid."
Baird stressed police were not convinced of foul play on Mark Hacking's part and were not calling him a suspect.
"We're not convinced one way or another," he said. "This is still a missing persons case."
Family members Thursday also urged everybody to focus on searching for Lori Hacking and not get distracted.
And Detective Phil Eslinger said, "We've got a couple of promising leads that we're working on right now, on the criminal aspect of it."
Police spent Thursday afternoon searching Dumpsters near the apartment complex where the Hackings lived. A similar search took place earlier this week behind
a nearby ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint near the Hackings' apartment.
A church member said police on Monday asked permission to take the contents of a Dumpster behind the church that held a mattress and some door frames. On Tuesday, the door frames remained but the mattress was gone.
The owners of Bradley's Furniture, Etc. told The Salt Lake Tribune on Thursday that Mark Hacking came into their South Salt Lake store at about 9:45 Monday morning shopping for a mattress.
"He just came in like any normal customer, just like his wife sent him to buy a mattress—nothing out of the ordinary," said Lisa Downs, who is the wife of store owner Chad Downs.
Lisa Downs said Mark Hacking's credit card purchase of a queen-sized mattress went through at 10:23 a.m. on Monday. Baird confirmed that purchase on Thursday evening.
Friends said on Wednesday that Mark Hacking contacted them about Lori Hacking's disappearance at about 10 a.m. Monday. They also said Hacking had told them he had run his wife's usual jogging route twice, 3 miles each way, looking for her before he called them.
Mark Hacking called police to report his wife missing at 10:49 a.m., according to police records. Lisa Downs said she figures he was still in her store's parking lot at 10:35. Because store staffers were unable to fully secure the mattress to Mark Hacking's car, he was asked to drive home slowly.
Under normal speed limits, the trip from the mattress store to the Hackings' apartment in the University area of Salt Lake City takes about 12 minutes, according to the online map database Mapquest.
Meanwhile, fewer volunteer searchers were scouring the rugged terrain of City Creek Canyon, where Lori Hacking may have disappeared, and canvasing surrounding neighborhoods. Many said they were surprised and confused to learn about Mark Hacking's deceptions about his schooling, but were not swayed from their efforts to find his wife.
For the third day, Mark Hacking, who worked as a psychiatric ward orderly, did not join the search. Police confirmed that officers had been called late Monday to the Chase Suites near 700 East 400 South in Salt Lake City on a disturbance call, and that the disturbance involved Mark Hacking. They also said he received medical attention at the scene.
Relatives said Thursday that Hacking was hospitalized on Tuesday morning.
Baird said Hacking was interviewed Wednesday, but was not under police guard.
Mark Hacking's relatives said Thursday he apparently felt pressured to lie about his educational plans, as he has two older brothers who are "high-achieving," as a doctor and an electrical engineer.
Douglas Hacking said Thursday he had spent all night with his son and talked with him about the deception. "He feels relieved that it's come to an end," he said. "It's like lifting a heavy load off his back."
Mark's brother, Scott Hacking, said, however, that he never felt that kind of pressure.
"My parents are amazing parents," he said. "I've always found, growing up, that they supported me in my personal goals."
On Monday, Mark Hacking had said his wife was five weeks pregnant. Family members Thursday said one of his sisters, Sarah, had seen the pregnancy test and was able to confirm the pregnancy.
Although few others apparently knew about the pregnancy, one of Lori Hacking's college roommates said Thursday she knew the couple was trying to conceive.
Erin Galbraith, who lived with Lori Hacking for three years while the two were attending the U., said she could not imagine two people more devoted to one another.
"Mark has just been fantastic," she said Thursday. "He has just treated her as you would want anyone to treat one of your best friends. He was the softie."
Other friends who saw Lori Hacking the night before she disappeared said they also had that impression. The Hackings attended an open house hosted by Angie Hawkes, another of Lori Hacking's former college roommates. She said the couple seemed happy.
"We talked about the move, we talked about med school, everything," added Galbraith. "That's what had been planned on for so long. I didn't know any different, and I still don't know what to think."
Lori Hacking's father, Herald Soares, said he was concerned, but not suspicious, about the academic deceptions. A former high school teacher in Fullerton, Calif., Soares said he initially did not graduate from the eighth grade.
"Now I have a master's degree," Soares said. "Personally, if he didn't want to go to school, that's OK. When you're young, sometimes you don't want those pressures."
Mark Hacking's family and his wife's family remain "very united," brother Lance Hacking said. "We know Lori's out there. We're committed to getting her."
Relatives said they had no idea what Mark Hacking's true plans were once the couple moved to North Carolina within the next few days, allegedly for Mark to go to school. They said they did not believe Lori Hacking was aware of her husband's fabrications.
Ross Williams, a lifelong friend of Mark Hacking's, described him as "a man of God, a man of service and a man of love." He said he was shocked to hear about the deception. "Mark hasn't lied to me in 27 years. If that's the case now, it's not like Mark."
Members of Mark Hacking's family appeared at two news conferences Thursday accompanied by Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart, a Salt Lake City teenager kidnapped from her home in June 2002 and found nine months later in the company of two street preachers.
"They are a great family," Smart said of the Hackings. "They have a lot of faith."
Asked about Mark Hacking's deceptions, Smart said, "families go through and have issues. That doesn't mean it has anything to do with Lori."
He pleaded for volunteers' continuing support. "Don't jump to conclusions. Please don't. That can make a difference . . . Remember, Elizabeth was in our back yard, literally, for two months. These people came so close to finding her."
Both Hawkes and Galbraith said they had volunteered in the search. "It's hard to stay focused, especially with this business with Mark," Galbraith said. "That's not the important thing right now . . . it's disheartening to see so few people show up, and the numbers dropping every day."
Hawkes said that as the Hackings were leaving Sunday night, "I gave her a hug goodbye," she said. "It dawned on me they were going to be moving, and I asked her if this would be the last time I would see her."
Lori Hacking told her it might be the last time she would see Mark, but not her. Mark Hacking was planning to drive to North Carolina before his wife, who was planning to fly there the first week in August. Lori Hacking promised her she was still planning to attend a girlfriend's birthday party Aug. 1.
"It just freaks me out that she was at my house, and less than 12 hours later, this whole thing goes down," Hawkes said. "It's just a shock."
Husband told his father he had nothing to do with her disappearance
Friday, July 23, 2004 Posted: 2:50 PM EDT (1850 GMT)
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (CNN)—The families of Lori and Mark Hacking pleaded Friday for reporters and the public to bring their attention back to the missing Utah woman and away from speculation and rumors about her husband's behavior.
Mark Hacking, who was taken into the psychiatric unit of a hospital 24 hours after reporting his wife missing on Monday, is undergoing psychological testing and is on medication, his father said.
"I confronted my son yesterday," Douglas Hacking said. "I looked him in the eye and I said, 'Did you have anything to do with Lori's disappearance?' And he said, 'No.'
"I know a lot of you will say, 'How can you believe that,' but I wanted you to know that part of it."
Salt Lake City police detectives have described Mark Hacking as a "person of interest" but not a suspect.
"I have loved Mark for many, many years," Lori's mother, Thelma Soares, said. "... He's like a son to me. We're all concerned about Mark. Both families, we're concerned about Mark. We don't understand what has happened.
"But we know where Mark is. We don't know where Lori is. She's the one we have to find."
Mark Hacking reported Lori missing Monday morning, saying she had not returned from a morning jog. Her car was found near the area she went to run, and a witness there reported seeing a woman fitting Lori Hacking's description stretching that morning.
Douglas Hacking said that his son and Lori were planning to move to North Carolina, where Mark had said he had been accepted by a medical school. But on Wednesday, the families learned that was a lie—as were his stories of graduating from the University of Utah and being accepted at two other schools.
By Thursday, Salt Lake City Police said they had learned that Mark initially telephoned friends around 10 a.m. Monday to say Lori was missing and telephoned police about 50 minutes later. In between, he was at a furniture store buying a queen-size mattress.
On Monday night, police were called to a Salt Lake City hotel, where they found Mark Hacking and requested medical assistance. From there Mark was taken in for psychiatric care, his father said.
"Everybody's aware he was taken to the hospital early Tuesday morning after having somewhat crashed psychologically," Douglas Hacking said. "I know you want details on that and those details will come out [later]."
Authorities impounded Mark Hacking's car after his wife disappeared, and their apartment was searched. A nearby Dumpster was removed for further scrutiny. On Thursday, police confiscated a box spring from the Hackings' apartment and used trained dogs to search several other garbage bins in the area.
Salt Lake City Police did not return calls to CNN to confirm the reports.
Elizabeth Read, a co-worker of Lori's, said the couple, married for five years, worked different schedules—Mark, from 3 p.m. to midnight, and Lori from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Douglas Hacking said Wednesday he had spoken with his son about the lies. Mark told him he "felt under some pressure to excel" because one of his brothers was a doctor and the other an engineer, he said. "He's relieved it's come to an end."
On Friday, Hacking said the family was "completely blindsided" by his son's lies.
"We've gone back and said, 'Did we see it coming?' and I have to say we didn't see it coming," he said. "We got completely blindsided by this, emotionally, psychologically. We did not see this coming."
Hacking would not offer many details of what his son had said or about his current condition, but said he had been with him earlier Friday and he was "doing well."
"He's getting good psychiatric care. He's in good hands," he said. "He's on medication, and he's being tested with psychological testing, and everybody's trying to sort out what's going on in his mind."
Thelma Soares, the missing woman's mother, begged for anyone to give "any time at all, even an hour today and an hour tomorrow" to the search for her daughter.
"We're all aware of all of the rumors and speculations about this case that are flying everywhere," she said. "They're being handled by the proper authorities, the professionals.
"I'm removing myself from all of that," she said, breaking into tears, "because my baby is still out there somewhere and we need to find her."
Mark Hacking called 'person of interest,' not suspect, in Utah case
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (AP)—Around the time Mark Hacking called police to report that his pregnant wife never returned from her morning jog, he was at a furniture store buying a new mattress, according to local news reports.
Hacking, 28, has not appeared publicly since Monday, the day he said his 27-year-old wife, Lori, vanished. Family members say he has since been hospitalized for stress.
The Deseret News and television station KSTU reported Thursday that police found Hacking at a motel about a half-mile from the couple's apartment early Tuesday. The report said Hacking was hospitalized after being found.
Police said only that they were called to a disturbance involving Hacking and that the matter was turned over to medical personnel.
Det. Dwayne Baird said police considered Hacking a "person of interest" in the case but not a suspect, and that he had been interviewed as recently as Wednesday.
Lori Hacking was five weeks pregnant when she disappeared just days before the couple was to move to North Carolina, where Mark Hacking said he was going to attend medical school, family members said.
But he had lied to his wife and family—he never graduated from college, nor was he accepted to any medical school, authorities said Thursday.
Meanwhile, The Salt Lake Tribune and KSL TV reported that Monday morning, in the minutes before he called police to report his wife missing, Mark Hacking was buying a new mattress.
The owners of a Salt Lake furniture store told the Tribune that Hacking came in about 9:45 a.m. Lisa Downs, the wife of store owner Chad Downs, said the credit-card purchase went through at 10:23 a.m..
Police have said Hacking called them and reported his wife missing at 10:49 a.m.
Friends told the Tribune that he had called them about 10 a.m. about his wife's disappearance and said he had twice run his wife's usual jogging route, three miles each way.
Police removed items from the couple's apartment Monday. They would not say what they have taken from the apartment, but television news footage showed paper bags, boxes and a box spring being removed. Police impounded a large trash bin from behind the apartment complex.
Mark Hacking's family and in-laws said they were stunned to learn Wednesday that he had not graduated from college or been accepted at a medical school, as he had claimed.
Thelma Soares, Lori Hacking's mother, said that she was certain her daughter had not known about the discrepancies. "Up to the time when I spoke with her last, she was deceived also," she told KUTV-TV.
Douglas Hacking said even though his son is incapacitated by grief, they spoke of the deception Wednesday night at the hospital.
"He has two older brothers who are high achievers, a physician and the other is an electrical engineer," he said. "He felt under some pressure to excel as well."