Pub crawls and parades Family of missing mom-to-be clings to hope

Lori Hacking update: Sun 07/25/04

I was about to summarize many of the stories I saw in the news yesterday (I was out enjoying the holiday, so no updates until this morning) when I saw these articles in today's Deseret Morning News and Salt Lake Tribune.

Deseret Morning News: Bloodied knife is found at Hackings'

Police mum on reports of a blade with blood, hair

A bloodstained knife with strands of hair attached is among the evidence Salt Lake police seized from the apartment of Mark and Lori Hacking, sources told the Deseret Morning News Saturday.

The knife is among numerous items taken—including a set of box springs, some bedding and computers—from the couple's home in the six days since the newly pregnant Lori Hacking reportedly went missing while taking a sunrise jog Monday in Memory Grove.

The knife may or may not be a key piece of evidence for Salt Lake police trying to solve the mystery of Lori Hacking's disappearance. But police weren't confirming, denying or even talking about the evidence on Saturday.

"We're not going to talk about anything of evidentiary value," police detective Dwayne Baird said.

After learning about the knife late Saturday, Mark Hacking's brother, Lance Hacking, had this to say:

"You know, we have confidence in law enforcement and their ability to handle the investigation. In the meantime, we're gonna continue to focus on the search for Lori."

Despite days of searching by hundreds of volunteers, Lori Hacking, 27, has yet to be found. Mark, her husband of five years, has spent much of the past week under the care of doctors in a psychiatric unit at the University of Utah Medical Center.

Also on Saturday, a clump of dark hair was retrieved by evidence technicians from a Dumpster at a Chevron gas station at 2100 S. 300 West. A station attendant reported the finding to police, Salt Lake police detective Phil Eslinger said.

It too will be added to the growing cache of evidence being evaluated, and it may not necessarily be connected to the case, he added.

"We're looking into everything," Eslinger said.

The gas station is less than two blocks from Bradley's Sleep Etc., 2255 S. 300 West, where Mark Hacking bought a new mattress Monday, just 26 minutes before reporting Lori's disappearance to police.

In other developments Saturday, cable's Fox News reported that police sources told the television network they had found bloodstains in the Hacking's apartment. That information blind-sided family members and police.

Baird said he did not know if those reports were "accurate or inaccurate."

"I'm not at liberty to discuss what it is as far as the investigative aspect goes," he said. "We have procedures that we deal with, and if it's evidentiary in nature, we're not going to discuss that. And certainly if it has to do with testing, that you're naming the results of that testing, we don't have it."

A plea for help
Earlier in the day, as Utah families and visitors gathered on Salt Lake City's Main Street for an enjoyable morning of watching the parade, Lori Hacking's parents continued to plead for help in finding their missing daughter.

"She's still out there somewhere. We need your help to find her," her mother, Thelma Soares, said tearfully. "Please help us find her one way or another."

The Hacking and Soares families stood together at a press conference Saturday morning. They expressed support for Mark Hacking, as they have each day this week. But behind the scenes there was apparently a rift developing.

Herald Soares, Lori's father, told Fox News Network Saturday that if Mark did have something to do with his daughter's disappearance, he wanted him to come clean.

"To a certain degree, I have to draw the line; I want my daughter back," he told the news network. "I want him to retrieve the body so we can give her a proper burial."

Lori Hacking was last seen sometime Sunday night after going to a party with her husband. She reportedly went jogging in Memory Grove Monday between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. Monday. Police were notified of her disappearance at 10:49 a.m.

Mark Hacking has remained hospitalized since early Tuesday, after he was found by police naked at the Chase Suite Hotel, 765 E. 400 South, allegedly creating a disturbance.

Douglas and Janet Hacking, Mark's parents, were not at Saturday morning's press conference. Their oldest son, Lance, said they were at the hospital visiting Mark and might have been delayed by parade traffic.

The time line
Some of the biggest questions being raised in the case concern the time line of alleged events.

During Mark Hacking's only public comments since his wife disappeared and before he was admitted to the hospital, he said he tried contacting her at work Monday at 10 a.m. But Hacking also went to Bradley's Sleep Etc. about 10 a.m. and purchased the new mattress at 10:23 a.m. Between 10:30 a.m. and 10:35 a.m. he left the store parking lot with the new mattress tied to the roof of his car.

Police were called at 10:49 a.m. When they arrived at Memory Grove, Mark Hacking had reportedly already twice jogged a three-mile route in the canyon looking for Lori. Neighbors did not report seeing a car with a mattress.

"We have a lot of questions about that time line," Baird said Saturday. "We know things about that time line we're not going to divulge."

Police also were remaining tight lipped about how many items they have sent away to the crime lab for analysis.

Local television station Fox 13 showed video of a box spring being removed from the Hackings' apartment Monday with an obvious red stain on the corner.

After viewing the video, Baird said it appeared to him that the red substance was on the packaging surrounding the box spring and not the bedding itself. He declined to offer a guess as to what that substance might be.

Friday afternoon a forensics team was sent to a house across the street from the Hackings' apartment at 127 S. Lincoln (945 East) where a foul smelling brown substance was found in a garbage can.

Baird also confirmed Saturday that investigators have used cadaver dogs in their search for Lori but did not have details on when or where they were used.

'Person of interest'
Detectives are only calling Mark Hacking a "person of interest" in the case and not a suspect. He became a person of interest after it was discovered that Hacking had deceived his family for two years, leading them to believe he graduated from the University of Utah and was accepted to medical school in North Carolina.

"Because of the deception we have to look at all aspects of what he has done," Baird said.

Also Saturday, police initially thought they may have had a break in the case when a hiker found the body of a badly decomposed person in the foothills above the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. But Baird said the body was that of a male, not Hacking. It was found near a transient camp and had been there an estimated two to three weeks.

Thelma Soares said she spoke with Mark Hacking Friday. Although she said much of their conversation was private, she revealed that they embraced and she told Mark that her love for him was not conditional on him becoming a doctor.

Despite the numerous questions surrounding Mark Hacking, both the Hacking and Soares families urged the community Saturday to continue concentrating on Lori. Thelma Soares encouraged mountain biking and hiking groups to keep their eyes open while they were out recreating.

More than 20 pages of leads were developed on the first day of the search alone, she said.

"One of these leads will help us find Lori, wherever she is," Thelma Soares said.

During just the first hour of the search effort Saturday, while the parade was in progress, more than 60 people showed up to assist in the search.

"I don't care about the holiday," said Karen Balsex, who showed up early to search. "The holiday is nothing compared to a human being."

By the end of the day, about 320 volunteers has participated, with dozens more picking up fliers for distribution. The number was down from Friday's total of about 600.

Steve Goodrich of Lindon said he was in Salt Lake City to watch a relative run in the marathon and thought it would be a good time to spend a couple of hours searching.

Volunteers could also be found passing out fliers and buttons with Lori's picture on it to people along the Days of '47 parade route. Lance Hacking said more than 35 cases of bottled water, each bottle with a picture of Lori Hacking pasted on it, were distributed at the parades in Salt Lake City, Bountiful and Spanish Fork.

Salt Lake Tribune: Jogger's dad has doubts on innocence of son-in-law

Hacking's father-in-law has doubts on innocence

Article last updated: 07/25/2004 06:26:34
The hug was immediate and unconditional. The trust was not.

With six days elapsed since Lori Hacking went missing and many questions yet to be answered about Mark Hacking's actions on the day he reported his wife was gone, Hareld Soares, the missing woman's father, said Saturday he is not prepared to accept his son-in-law's claims of innocence.

"If he knows anything, he needs to come out and tell us," said Soares, who met with Mark Hacking on Friday evening. "My faith in him has to be restored because right now I don't believe him."

"We hugged. We said we loved each other," Soares said. "I told him, 'I have compassion and love for you.'

Soares declined to elaborate on the conversation he had with the only individual named by police as a "person of interest" in his daughter's disappearance.

"It was a private conversation," he said.

Thelma Soares also met with Mark Hacking, a 28-year-old psychiatric ward orderly, who remains hospitalized following what family members described as "a breakdown" on Monday evening at a Salt Lake City hotel.

The missing woman's mother said she wanted to know why her son-in-law lied about graduating from college and getting accepted to medical school in North Carolina. Ross Williams, a friend of Hacking's, has said he got an invitation to the commencement, but that Hacking had said he was ill that day.

"I asked him, 'Why didn't you know that my love for you was not conditional on your becoming a doctor?'" Thelma Soares said. "Don't you know I love you because you are Mark and because of the way you have treated Lori all these years?"

Lori Hacking, 27, who is reportedly five weeks pregnant, was last seen by neighbors and friends at about 8:30 p.m. on July 18. Mark Hacking reported his wife missing at 10:49 a.m. the following morning, saying she had gone jogging at Memory Grove Park and never returned. Mark Hacking told police he found her car at the park.

Police said Friday they have no proof that Lori Hacking ever arrived at the canyon that morning. They did not provide any explanation for reports that, minutes before Mark Hacking called to report his wife was missing, he was in a South Salt Lake furniture store purchasing a new queen-sized mattress.

On Saturday, police responded to a gas station and car wash near the furniture store and retrieved a clump of hair from a Dumpster after receiving a call from a person who had found it, said police Detective Phil Eslinger.

Police have no way of knowing whether the hair is related to Lori Hacking's disappearance, Eslinger said. "We are looking into everything."

He said the hair was dark, but had no further description.

Mark Hacking's parents, meanwhile, did not say whether they questioned their son about his actions on the morning his wife went missing, when he reportedly was in the South Salt Lake furniture store.

"The first question is, 'Where is Lori?' " said his brother, Lance Hacking, a computer engineer from Austin, Texas. "If I thought there was some missing piece that Mark could fill in related to that question, I would ask him."

Police said they last questioned Mark Hacking on Wednesday and said the Hacking family had been cooperative with their efforts.

In other developments:
  • Police angrily disputed a report Saturday by FOX News that traces of blood were found in the Hackings' apartment. Detective Dwayne Baird said items from the apartment are being tested, but the presence of blood has not been confirmed. And, "if it's evidentiary in value, we're not going to discuss that," Baird said.
  • Police said Saturday that dogs were used earlier in the week in a search of a local landfill.
  • Lori Hacking's case was featured on the national television show, "America's Most Wanted." The show followed the segment with an update on Elizabeth Smart, a Salt Lake City teenager kidnapped from her home in June 2002 and found nine months later.
  • A candlelight vigil for Lori Hacking will be held tonight at 9 p.m. at Memory Grove Park (135 E. North Temple) in Salt Lake City. Organizers ask that attendees park at the State Capitol.
  • A phone line is set up for people wanting to donate their time, food, supplies or other help. Call 801-205-0038.
About 250 volunteers showed up to search on Saturday. Searches continued as late as 7 p.m., and some volunteers went out on two or three searches, according to staffers at the search center, 142 W. 200 North.

Volunteers are prepared for the possibility of finding a body, coordinators said. They are told to note any unusual smells or sights, and to call 911 if they find anything, said Debbie Adams, who assists with volunteer orientation. One of the most important things volunteers are told is not to touch or disturb anything they find that might have evidentiary value.

"You're searching for a person. She may be alive or dead," said Tim Hollinger, who helps oversee search efforts.

Volunteers are told if they come across Lori Hacking and she needs medical attention, to stay with her and give her nothing but water until she has been evaluated by emergency medical personnel, he said. If searchers find her and she does not need medical attention, stay with her, volunteers are told, because of the need for crime scene processing.

Lori Hacking's family said they continue to be grateful for the volunteer searchers.

"Every time I'm alone, I'm praying for you guys," Hareld Soares said. "I pray that you have the blessings of the Heavenly Father."

Salt Lake Tribune: Mullen: Despite startling revelations, stalwarts seach on for Lori

Once the cameras were off and the reporters exited the regular morning news conference, you could have rolled a bowling ball through the LDS ward gymnasium that is doubling as the command center in the search for Lori Hacking.

It was just that quiet on Saturday morning.

Until late last Wednesday—the day Douglas Hacking announced his son Mark had lied for two years about his academic record and medical school admission—the rows of folding chairs in the room had overflowed with energetic volunteer searchers desperate to find the lovely brunette who went missing near Memory Grove on Monday. On Saturday, most of the chairs sat empty. Supervisors assigned to walk volunteers through the search process mostly looked off into space or made small talk with other workers.

Whether Mark Hacking had anything to do with his wife's disappearance remains to be seen. But with each revelation that slips out, and with the increasingly disturbing details about his behavior, the volunteer force diminishes. It is agonizing for Lori's parents, Hareld and Thelma Soares, to watch. "Come out and help us," an exhausted Hareld begged. "We need you."

Some people took him to heart. Heidi Butler, 32, a mother of four and child-care provider from North Ogden, walked into the command center about 11 a.m. looking hot and wilted. She had been working the Days of '47 parade route since before 8 a.m., passing out fliers with Lori's picture.

She even taped handbills to the inside doors of the "loos," as she called them—portable toilets on the parade route. "Hey," she said, "it's a captive audience in there."

But Butler's voice dropped to a whisper when she faced the gritty reality of fewer volunteers.

"We got here when they told us to, at 7:30, and there was hardly anyone here." No question, she said, the suspicions building around Mark have had their effect. "But I'm going to get some lunch and I'll be back."

Again and again, I asked the remaining searchers why they came. In the latest and purposely vague police jargon, Mark is "a person of interest." Which means there is no one else under serious scrutiny, but no suspect has been named. And Lori is still out there.

We saw in the Elizabeth Smart case how a huge wave of community support was built for a family in need. Many observers chalked that up to the tightly knit LDS network—members help members; they use the fabled "phone tree" to call others into action. No stone unturned.

All of that is true. But then as now, the urge to aid this latest suffering family runs a mile deeper than can be chalked up to one faith. Sam and Patty Lewis are not Mormon; they simply personify the best of humanity when it is stripped of stumbling blocks like religious and political differences. Busy young parents of four children ranging in age from 8 years to 9 weeks, they drove two hours from Cache Valley to help.

The Lewises are transplants from Secaucus, N.J. They moved to Mendon a year ago. The last time I saw them, they had kids in tow, and were embarking on a door-to-door search for Lori in a central Salt Lake neighborhood.

"I've dealt with people who don't have a lot of scruples, and to think that this guy has lied the way he did is hard to understand," said Sam. "And if he is sending someone down some trail that might be completely wrong, well . . . we're not thinking about that now. We can't.

"She just really needs to be found."