Jogger's Family Says She Was Deceived

Thursday, July 22, 2004

SALT LAKE CITY The family and in-laws of a missing woman were stunned to learn that her husband had not graduated from college nor been accepted at a medical school, as he had said. The woman's mother says her daughter also was apparently deceived.

A news conference by Lori Hacking's (search) relatives was delayed briefly Wednesday while police told them what officers had known for at least a day of the discrepancies in Mark Hacking's (search) background.

"We were of the impression that he had graduated from the University of Utah recently, and just found out a few minutes ago that he never applied to medical school in North Carolina," said a visibly shaken Douglas Hacking, Mark Hacking's father.

Thelma Soares, Lori Hacking's mother, said Thursday that she was certain her daughter hadn't known about the discrepancies.

"Up to the time when I spoke with her last, she was deceived also," she told KUTV-TV.

Mark Hacking reported his 27-year-old wife missing on Monday, saying she had never returned from a morning jog. The disappearance came days before the couple was to move to North Carolina, ostensibly for medical school.

Police Chief Rick Dinse said "there is no question (Mark Hacking) is a person of interest" in the disappearance but said he would have been regardless of the education deception.

The University of North Carolina said Wednesday that Hacking had never applied to the medical school. Also, the University of Utah said he was enrolled from 1999 to 2002, majoring in psychology, but never graduated.

Soares said she hasn't spoken to her son-in-law about the discrepancies but wants him to help the family understand them.

"We feel badly that you felt that it was necessary to perpetuate this deception. We love you, no matter what," she told KUTV-TV.

Mark Hacking was to have been at the news conference, but he has not appeared publicly since late Monday. The family had said only that he was in "a safe place and getting the help he needs."

Friends said the couple learned last Thursday that she was five weeks pregnant. The Tribune said police said Wednesday that has not been confirmed.

Detective Dwayne Baird said the confusion about the husband's background was information police didn't think that the relatives needed to know, and may not mean anything. He called it "just a piece of this puzzle."

Lori Hacking's family feared the disclosures about the discrepancies would distract attention from the search.

"The message is that Lori is still missing," said Soares, tears welling up in her eyes. "We'll work the other stuff out later."

More than 1,200 volunteers scoured the steep terrain surrounding a park and canyon in a search for Lori Hacking on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, volunteers took fliers door-to-door in downtown Salt Lake City neighborhoods.

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Is it just me, or is anyone else getting Scott Peterson flashbacks here?