SALT LAKE CITY – By all accounts, Mark Hacking was fun to be around – a loving husband who wanted to be respected and, like his father, become a doctor.
But in the hours that he was supposedly studying for his medical exams, Hacking often was hanging out at a neighborhood store – refilling sodas, eating hot dogs and smoking cigarettes.
He told store clerks he was a therapist, and asked them never to reveal his cigarette habit to his wife. Both are Mormons and aren’t supposed to smoke.
He got his wife to pack up so they could move to North Carolina, where he planned to attend medical school. It turns out, he wasn’t enrolled.
He kept textbooks spread open around his apartment, but in fact, he had dropped out of college.
Years of deceptions are catching up to the former nightshift hospital orderly, and he has become the focus of the investigation into the disappearance of his wife.
As the search for Lori Hacking enters its third week without a trace of the 27-year-old woman, her friends and co-workers are recalling moments when they believe she discovered her husband’s propensity for lying.
Detective Phil Eslinger said police are trying to build a “rock-solid” case, but they lack one important piece of evidence.
“We need a body,” Assistant District Attorney Bob Stott said Friday. Dogs trained to locate cadavers were used this past week to search a municipal landfill.
Hacking’s history of deceptions took relatives by surprise when his stories started unraveling in the past few weeks, said his father, Douglas Hacking, a pediatrician.
“We didn’t see it coming,” he said. “We got completely blindsided by it.”
Mark Hacking’s family has described him as a kind, loving husband who may have felt driven to lie by perceived family pressures: He has an older brother who is a doctor, and another who is an electrical engineer.
Fellow Mormons who knew Mark Hacking when he was a missionary in Winnipeg, Manitoba, told The Winnipeg Sun that he loved cracking jokes and wanted to be popular.
Mark Hacking reported his wife missing on July 19. The next day, he was taken to a psychiatric ward after he was seen running around at night naked in sandals outside a motel where he’d taken a room.
Doctors are trying to “sort out what is going on in his mind,” his father said.
Mark Hacking, 28, never was on track to become a doctor, nor is he a therapist. State records show he is a licensed health care assistant, a job he quit on July 23. The University of Utah says health care assistants start at $8.42 an hour.
Records show Lori Hacking, a stockbroker’s assistant at Wells Fargo Bank, graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah in 1999. She put her plans to pursue an MBA on hold until her husband could graduate from medical school.
But a friend of Lori Hacking recalls her confiding in 2000 that Mark Hacking “just lied to me” about having enrolled one semester at college, both Salt Lake City daily newspapers reported Friday.
A bigger lie apparently left Lori Hacking stunned and sobbing on Friday, July 16.
Her colleagues say she had been trying to make some arrangements at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, where she believed her husband had been accepted into medical school, but they believe a school administrator returned a call that day to say her husband wasn’t enrolled there.
Lori Hacking, a private woman, didn’t share her grief with co-workers but took up their suggestion to leave work early.
That night, she showed up with her husband at a going-away party at her boss’s mountain cabin, betraying no sign of distress. She was last seen by friends Sunday night, July 18, and failed to show up for work the next morning at 7 a.m.
Mark Hacking has told police his wife didn’t return from a sunrise jog July 19, but his timeline is falling apart.
Police don’t believe Lori Hacking ever went jogging at a city park, as he said.
And they doubt his claim that he jogged the route before reporting her missing. They say he was across town at a store buying a new mattress at 10:23 a.m, before alerting police at 10:49 a.m. Police have recovered the old mattress from a trash bin in their neighborhood, but have not commented on its condition.