It all started with a series of lies — and it ended with a grisly murder.
Thelma Soares, the mother of Lori Soares, came forward to participate on Oxygen Channel’s new true crime docuseries titled “A Lie to Die For,” which premieres on June 23. The show will explore cases from across the country where people were willing to kill in order to protect a shocking truth from getting out. The show, which features interviews with investigators and loved ones, will explore how “each complex lie turned into a horrific tragedy.”
The premiere episode, titled “A Marriage Bed of Lies,” investigates the life and demise of Lori, whose death became one of Salt Lake City, Utah’s highest-profile murders.
Soares told Fox News she participated in the documentary because she’s still determined to keep the memory of her late daughter alive.
“She was beautiful, no question about it,” said the 81-year-old. “She was voted class president in her junior high school. She was a great child. I just miss her so much.”
Soares’ daughter went on to tie the knot with her high school sweetheart Mark Hacking. And by all accounts, they had a seemingly loving marriage. Deseret News reported that in 2004, the couple had been married for five years when they were on the verge of moving to North Carolina. Hacking had graduated from the University of Utah with honors and had been accepted to a North Carolina medical school. Lori had also told a family member she was five weeks pregnant.
Soares said Hacking was incredibly affectionate and caring of others — an ideal match for her child.
“I really liked him,” she recalled. “We would sit down and complete crossword puzzles… He always came and put the lights on my Christmas tree every year… He would stop by the freeway if he saw people whose cars had stopped. I would tell him that was dangerous… [But] he was just a kind young man who would help anyone in need. A good kid.”
But everything changed on July 19, 2004.
Hacking claimed the 27-year-old went hiking that morning but failed to show up for her job at Wells Fargo Securities Services. Hacking called the police to report his wife was missing. Law enforcement removed paper bags, boxes and a box spring from the couple’s apartment as part of their investigation. Police also impounded a large trash bin from behind the apartment complex. Investigators learned that before Mark called 911, he purchased a new mattress for the couple’s bedroom.
Late that night, police responded to a disturbance at a local hotel where they found Hacking running around naked — he was then brought to the University Neuropsychiatric Institute where he was admitted. The following day, more than 1,200 volunteers started searching through the steep terrain surrounding a city park and canyon in hopes of finding Lori.
Her parents would later learn that Mark never graduated from college and was never accepted at medical school. The then-29-year-old went as far as asking his unknowing wife for help on fake term papers and even stored textbooks in his garage.
Lori's co-workers also told police that a few days before she vanished, she received an upsetting phone call at work and left the office in tears. The call was believed to have been from the University of North Carolina saying that her husband was not enrolled there, as he had insisted.
In August 2004, a first-degree murder charge was filed against Hacking after he reportedly confessed to his brothers that he shot his wife in the head and threw her body in a trash bin.
Soares admitted she was stunned by Hacking's confession.
“I could barely speak,” she said. “It just couldn’t be right. He was the one who called me that morning. I was at work. He told me she had gone running but hadn’t come back… He was the one who organized the search… When they told us, I just wanted to laugh. You’ve got to be kidding. It can’t be Mark. It couldn’t be Mark. He loved Lori. He said, ‘She’s the one thing I did right in my life.’ And she loved him too.”
Deseret News reported Lori's remains were found in the county landfill by police in October, after a 33-day search.
Soares said she has long wondered if an alleged injury that occurred when Hacking was about 19, sometime in the ‘90s, contributed to his heinous behavior.
“He was helping with a house – he was always so good at building things – and he fell backward, hitting the cement below,” said Soares. “He hit the back of his head. He was in bed for weeks because he couldn’t get up and walk. He back just hurt too bad. And his head. To tell you the truth, I think that explains why this happened. He was harmed mentally when he fell and hit the back of his head like that.”
Hacking was sentenced to a term of six years to life and prison. According to the Deseret News, there was a public outcry following the sentence because many felt the minimum of six years just didn’t seem like enough time for Hacking’s crimes. The Utah Board of Pardons and Parole held a hearing and told Hacking he wouldn’t be considered for parole until 2035. Utah lawmakers then changed the sentencing guidelines for aggravated murder to 15 years to life. That change is now recognized as “Lori’s Law.”
Soares said Hacking's father encouraged him to write his “life history” to keep him occupied behind bars. He has since written a book, which is currently unpublished but given to his family and Soares.
“He says, ‘I did not want my life taken apart by psychologists who would misinterpret my words and try to read deviance into places that did not exist,’” says Soares, reading an excerpt from Hacking's book. “‘I did not want to re-experience my pain caused by already gaping wounds in my soul. On the other hand, people deserve answers to these questions — how and why I made my many wrong choices. And hurt those I loved. I want to provide those answers. So I began writing.’”
"I was able to identify my many bad choices,’” Soares continued reading. “‘Thereby learning from them and accepting responsibility for having made them. I was able to let people know the truth about all I have done. I also came to believe that writing this book was something Lori would have wanted me to do. Nothing is more important to me than seeing her again. And this book is one of the first steps among amping in an effort to make this possible.’”
Soares added Hacking continues to write to her from prison. She has chosen not to respond “for some time.”
But one thing Soares was willing to do was to forgive her daughter’s killer.
“I couldn't live without doing that,” she explained. “It would have destroyed me. If I hadn’t forgiven him, I would be locked away in some institution. I would have been out of my mind. I know it’s hard for anyone to believe that. And I didn’t do it all at once… I’m not kidding when I said I would have been out of m mind. It was so awful.”
Soares said she’s still trying to make sense of what happened to Hacking and how a once idyllic marriage quickly turned into a real-life nightmare. However, she hopes the Oxygen show will educate viewers how “there’s no such thing as a little white lie.”
“The one thing I felt… relieve about is that when he shot her, she was asleep,” said Soares. “So she felt no pain whatsoever. She had gone to bed and woke up in heaven.”
"A Lie to Die For" premieres June 23 at 8 p.m. on Oxygen. The Associated Press contributed to this report.