Brothers prompt confession
Five days into the search for their sister-in-law, Mark Hacking's brothers made a decision that could help seal his fate.
Cognizant of their promise to help find Lori Hacking, they confronted Mark in his hospital room the morning of July 24, pleaded for information and gave him the afternoon to think it over.
They returned that night. And, they said, he confessed.
"My brother and I sat and hugged him for about an hour, and then we went home," Scott Hacking said Wednesday.
In an interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, Scott Hacking confirmed that he and his brother, Lance, comprised the "reliable citizen witness," cited in an arresting document released Tuesday, who prompted police to focus on the Salt Lake County landfill for three straight days last week.
Police resumed the landfill search Wednesday evening.
Scott Hacking said he hopes his brother's information - delivered to police through an intermediary the following day - helps resolve the case.
"My family started this entire process with two goals in mind," he said. "One was to bring Lori back and the other was to discover the truth. And we were determined to do both of those things."
That determination did not quell the despair he felt later that evening.
"No brother wants to offer information about his own brother," Scott Hacking said.
But for the Hacking family, there were higher duties at play.
"Our religion is based in the LDS faith, and we believe strongly in choices and consequences," he said. "We were focused on getting Lori back and getting the consequences taken care of so that Mark can start healing. We want him back as our brother and this was the only way it is going to happen."
Scott Hacking said he was aware his brother's alleged actions could result in a death-penalty verdict.
"I certainly worried about that," he said. "My family believes in the justice system. . . . If those consequences are the ones he has to face, then again, we will support him through that point, though I hope he does not have to face that consequence."
An arresting document released by the Salt Lake County Jail states that Mark Hacking told a witness that he killed his wife while she slept and disposed of her body in a Dumpster.
But after learning that his brother had been lying about many other things, Scott Hacking was not sure he could trust the admission. The following day, his family allowed about 1,800 volunteer searchers to continue searching for Lori Hacking in and around City Creek Canyon, where Mark Hacking had told police his wife had gone running and never returned.
Six days later, both sides of Mark and Lori Hackings' family issued a statement asking for the search to be called off, saying Mark Hacking had provided information that made it "unnecessary."
Mark Hacking was arrested on Monday.
The search resumes: A stale, sour aroma permeates the landfill search site, where police searchers and their dogs returned Wednesday night.
Plodding their way through tons of plastic bags, rotting food and cardboard, detectives say they have sifted through 500 tons of trash in the first four days of the search, which took place July 21 and July 26 through July 28. Investigators have another 2,500 tons to process, which may take weeks.
A massive excavator and bulldozer, operated by landfill employees, moved mounds of compacted garbage into a field allowing searchers to piece through it.
"It is compacted so tightly that they need to go in and break it up," said landfill spokeswoman Jill Fletcher at the site on Wednesday. "It is kind of eerie to look at the pile."
That pile is 18 feet deep and covers an area the size of 1 1/2 football fields. It holds the garbage transported by more than 600 dumptrucks.
The area is contained from the rest of the landfill and is filled with garbage dropped off on July 19 and the first few hours of July 20, Fletcher said.
Landfill employees cordoned off the area on July 20 after detectives called them about 10 a.m. to say potential evidence may be hidden in the refuse. The garbage is now coated with a chemical that keeps it from blowing away and repels birds and rodents.
Detective Dwayne Baird said searchers are trying to find "landmarks" that may indicate her body is near. Those landmarks are certain items that were picked up the same day from the Hackings' neighborhood.
Officers patrolled the gates of the landfill late Wednesday to keep people from interfering with the search.
Lori Hacking, 27, was last seen the night of July 18. Mark Hacking reported her missing the next day and insisted on a police search of City Creek Canyon, where he said she was jogging.
Early the morning of July 20, Mark Hacking was admitted to the University Hospital's psychiatric unit, where he remained until Monday, when police arrested him on suspicion of murder.
In their arresting document, detectives said a knife with blood on it was found in the couple's bedroom and blood also was found on the headboard and bed rail. The blood matches "blood flakes" recovered from Lori Hacking's car, which Mark Hacking drove to a nearby Maverik convenience store about 1:30 a.m. on July 19.
As of Wednesday, prosecutors had not filed charges against Mark Hacking, who remained on suicide watch in the Salt Lake County Jail, held on a $500,000 cash-only bail.
Innocent until proven guilty: Despite the accumulation of seemingly damning evidence against Mark Hacking, his defense attorney is urging the public to keep an open mind.
"The constitutional presumption of innocence is very applicable at this stage, and I'd like everyone to honor that presumption," D. Gilbert Athay told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday.
Mark Hacking, 28, was arrested Monday immediately following his release from the hospital, where he was admitted under a hospital-given code name of "Jonathan Long."
The pseudonym was later added to the jail roster as an alias, prompting speculation that he may have used the name as part of his now-infamous tower of lies. Athay said that was not the case, noting the name had no meaning until Hacking's hospital stay.
Athay has been visiting Hacking in jail on a regular basis.
"He's anxious, he's fearful, he's frightened," Athay said. "But I don't think that's unusual for a person who's not been in jail before and is facing the kinds of charges he's facing."
Police say Hacking had spun an elaborate web of lies, telling his wife, friends and family he spent the past two years attending and graduating from the University of Utah, and had been accepted to the medical school at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Despite those deceptions, Athay said he believes Hacking is being honest with him.
"I think he's being very straightforward with me," Athay said. "I have no reason to disbelieve anything he's telling me."
Prosecutors have until tonight to file charges, although they may ask a judge to grant an extension.
Athay said he has been "in communication
Mark Hacking's family but not with the family of Lori Hacking.
As for the possibility of posting bail, Athay said, "I haven't even discussed that."
Athay said he will consider making Mark Hacking's mental health issues a part of his client's defense.
Tribune reporters Ashley Broughton, Michael Westley and Brent Israelsen contributed to this story.