SALT LAKE CITY – In graphic detail, a Utah man told a court he shot his pregnant wife in the head and dumped her body in a trash bin. What Mark Hacking (search) couldn't explain is why he did it.
Mark and Lori Hacking's families, however, said the 27-year-old woman was unraveling years of deception by her husband, starting with his lies about having been accepted to medical school.
On Monday, a judge listened to nearly two hours of emotional, angry and sometimes bitter testimony from Mark and Lori Hacking's families before handing down the stiffest sentence she could under Utah law: six years to life in prison. Only the parole board can decide how long Hacking stays locked up.
"I want him to rot in his cell every day — to know he killed a beautiful thing and threw her in the garbage," said Lori Hacking's father, Eraldo Soares.
Her mother, 67-year-old Thelma Soares, said Hacking had been a "brilliant" liar who "had us all fooled for so many years." She recalled sharing jokes with her son-in-law about a supposed college anatomy class he was attending. "It still amazes me he was able to pull the wool over so many eyes for so long with such detail and expertise," she said.
Hacking's family blamed depression and a brain injury from a roofing accident they said left him unable to concentrate in college, from which — to his family's surprise — he never graduated. He bought a cap and gown but feigned sickness on the day of his graduation ceremony.
All along, Hacking felt intense pressure to measure up to older brothers who became a doctor and an engineer, his siblings and parents testified Monday.
His father, a pediatrician, said Mark Hacking's "house of cards" finally crumbled after Lori called school administrators in North Carolina, who told her Mark Hacking was not enrolled there, even as the couple was packing for the move.
"I truly feel like he 'snapped' and didn't know what he was doing," his father, Douglas Hacking, said Monday.
On his turn in court, Mark Hacking, 29, spoke haltingly, saying he could offer no excuse for his behavior, would accept whatever punishment he ultimately gets and that a life sentence probably wasn't enough to amend for the murder of his wife.
"She didn't do nothing but love me unconditionally, even when I didn't deserve it. 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," Hacking said.
"I put them in the garbage, and they rotted out at the landfill. I'm tormented every waking minute by what I did," he said.
An autopsy of the badly decomposed body could not confirm that Lori Hacking (search) was pregnant, as she had told friends, leaving the state unable to seek the death penalty. Prosecutor Robert Stott said that left insufficient proof for such a charge.
Under Utah's system of indeterminate criminal sentences, first-degree murder brings a mandatory five years to life, but Hacking's minimum will be increased to six years because he used a firearm. The judge can only impose the broad range of sentence, leaving it up to Utah's Board of Pardons and Parole to decide when or if Hacking will ever be set free.