The last time 27-year-old Lori Kay Soares Hacking was seen alive in public was on the night of July 18, 2004, when she and her husband, Mark Hacking, dropped by a convenience store in Salt Lake City, Utah, where they lived. The next morning, Mark reported Lori missing.
As a massive search was underway, the worried façade Mark had presented to the world via the media began to crumble. Mark had been deceiving everyone in his life, including his wife, about attending college and being accepted to medical school. Rather than come clean, Mark killed his wife in a last-ditch attempt to cover up his lies.
Mark Hacking becomes a suspect in his wife’s disappearance
On July 19, 2004, Mark Hacking contacted Salt Lake City police at 10:07 a.m. to say his wife, Lori Hacking, hadn’t returned from jogging early that morning. He phoned them again at 10:46 a.m. to report he’d found Lori’s car parked near the canyon where she’d gone running. A search began, with numerous volunteers stepping up to help. Mark seemed grateful for this assistance as he spoke in front of television cameras that day.
For those who knew the Mormon couple, there was no reason to believe Mark had any involvement in his wife’s disappearance. The two, who wed in 1999, appeared to have a happy marriage. Family had been told Lori was five weeks pregnant shortly before she went missing. She’d given notice at Wells Fargo, where she worked as a stockbroker’s assistant, and her last day at work was just a couple of weeks away. The couple planned to move so Mark could attend the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Medicine.
Yet police soon saw Mark as a potential suspect. In between his two calls to them, he’d said he was trying to find his wife. Instead, investigators learned he’d been buying a new mattress. Police found Lori’s purse, wallet and car keys in the couple’s apartment, as well as a hunting knife with blood on it. In addition, the driver’s seat in Lori’s car had been adjusted for someone taller than her—and there was blood in the back seat of the vehicle.
In the early morning hours of July 20, police received a disturbance call that Mark was running around outside a hotel wearing nothing but sandals. He was then admitted to a psychiatric facility. However, former FBI profiler Candice DeLong later noted, “He kept his shoes on—his sandals—that’s not generally something we see in someone truly psychotic.”
Mark Hacking’s lies to Lori and family are revealed
The search for Lori continued, but by July 21, Mark and Lori’s families learned Mark had not been accepted to medical school, and had also lied about graduating from the University of Utah in 2004. In fact, he’d dropped out in 2002, though he’d pretended to attend classes, study textbooks and write term papers. He’d also traveled across the country to fake interviews at different medical schools.
Family members were stunned. Education was highly valued in Mark’s family—his father was a pediatrician and his mother, a nurse. His brothers had careers in science. No one expected Mark would have lied about his educational path. Yet Dr. Kathy Yates, a forensic psychologist, says it wasn’t surprising to learn about Mark’s ability to dupe those closest to him.
“He was able to deceive with such detailed accuracy in terms of creating a persona that he wanted everybody to believe and that tells me he’s bright,” Yates says. “If somebody’s clever and crosses their T’s and dots their I’s, and they are in healthy relationships with people, it would be very hard [for those closest to them] to not be deceived.”
However, Mark’s deception started to unravel a few days before Lori went missing. On Friday, July 16, Lori called Mark’s medical school to ask about financial aid, possibly because she was pregnant. At that point she was told he hadn’t enrolled in medical school, and, in fact, hadn’t even applied. Co-workers saw her in tears before she left work early that day. But at her going-away party that night, which she attended with Mark, she seemed content once more.
It was later revealed that Lori’s concerns had been allayed that evening after Mark told her a computer problem at the school was to blame for not including him on its incoming-student roster. Lori then left a message for a school administrator stating her husband had “straightened everything out.” Because she contacted the school after 5 p.m. on the East Coast, no one would hear her message until Monday, when Lori was already dead.
Prosecutors and others feel Lori’s outreach to the school may have triggered Mark to kill her, since that’s when his lies started to be exposed.
What happened to Mark Hacking?
While Mark Hacking was still on a psychiatric hold, two of his brothers visited him, encouraging him to tell the truth. On July 24, he confessed to them that on July 18, he and Lori had argued after he told her the truth about medical school. Later that night, he shot her while she slept, then put her body in a dumpster.
The police searched for Lori’s remains at a municipal landfill until they were discovered—two months later.
On April 15, 2005, Mark pleaded guilty to first-degree murder. As Lori’s remains were too decomposed to verify her pregnancy, Mark did not face the death penalty.
“I intentionally shot Lori Hacking in the head with a .22 rifle on July 19, 2004,” he told the court. At his sentencing, he declared, “She was the greatest thing that ever happened to me, but I killed her, and took the life of my unborn child and put them in the garbage, and I can’t explain why I did it.”
Yates believes Mark’s pathological lying likely developed in response to interactions in the community and with other people. “As he grew up and was watching other family members get successful or be successful, he was not,” she says. “There’s an element of grandiosity. He felt like he deserved more than he was getting in life, but didn’t want to put his energies into achieving the kinds of goals that he probably could have achieved.”
Mark was sentenced to a minimum of six years in prison, the legal guideline at the time, but will not be considered for parole before 2035. He is currently serving his time at the Central Utah Correctional Facility.
In 2006, he was found to be providing autographs and other items for a murder memorabilia site, though he voluntarily agreed to stop. With encouragement from his family, he has also written a “life history” while behind bars.
Remembering Lori Hacking
In 2004, Lori’s brother, Paul Soares, said of her relationship with Mark, “He didn’t have to be a doctor, a president—whatever it was. As long as he was doing his best, she would have loved him.”
During the investigation into Lori’s disappearance, a typewritten letter from Lori to Mark was found in the couple’s spare bedroom. It’s unknown when she wrote it, but it may have been connected to the July 16 call she made to the medical school she thought Mark was attending. In the letter, she pleaded with Mark to change his behavior, writing, “I want to grow old with you, but I can’t do it under these conditions… I can’t imagine life with you if things don’t change.”
Lori’s remains were buried at a gravesite that bears her maiden name, Soares, not her married name. In her honor, her family established the Lori Kay Soares Hacking Memorial Scholarship at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, the same school Lori attended. The scholarship aids women in disadvantaged situations and those facing personal challenges.
In 2004, A&E aired a documentary about the case, Deadly Deception: The Mark Hacking Story.
Lori’s mother, Thelma Soares, has exchanged letters with Mark in prison. She says she’s forgiven him for her own peace of mind. But she still grieves her daughter’s death. “You never get over it,” she said in a 2014 interview with Deseret News. “I’m not over it now. I will never get over it. What you get over is the immediacy of it… But you never get over the loss.”