Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Lori Hacking

Building a Case

Mark's confession prompted the end of a two-week long search for Lori, which involved thousands of volunteers. Instead, the authorities organized a new search for Lori at a Salt Lake County Landfill. It was hoped that her body would be discovered somewhere amongst the thousands of tons of garbage.  

Police and volunteers search landfill
Police and volunteers search landfill

The search for Lori at the landfill was expected to last about a month but would take much longer than initially anticipated. Several thousand tons of compact garbage more than 30 to 40 feet deep and two soccer fields in length needed to be rifled through by volunteers, Court TV reported in a September 15, 2004 article. Cadaver dogs were also used to help in the search.

The Court TV article stated that there were 38 volunteers including, police officers, firefighters, public safety officials and Urban Search and Rescue Team members who helped look for human remains at the World Trade Center. They spent on average 11 hours a day, four days a week conducting the backbreaking search. The crew, dressed in steel-plated boots, coveralls, thick leather gloves, masks and protective eyewear, combed through the rank trash using pitchforks, yet eventually resorted to digging through the garbage with their hands, the Salt Lake Tribune reported. All of those involved believed that their time and effort is well spent, even though many are uncertain if they'll ever find Lori's remains. 

Even without Lori's body, Police Chief Rick Dinse said, "We have a good case here. We are hopeful we can find the body but we believe this case is strong enough that we could prosecute without it," Howlett reported in the August 3 USA Today. The prosecution's case was indeed strong. Mark's confession to his brothers would likely be admissible at trial and be particularly damaging to the defense case. Stephen Hunt and Ashley Broughton's August 10 article in the Salt Lake Tribune quoted Assistant Utah Attorney General Thomas Brunker as saying, "The brothers will be good witnesses...they have nothing to personally gain."

The material evidence against Mark was also damaging to the defense case. Investigators have genetically matched Lori's blood to that found in Lori's car, on the couple's bed rail, headboard and mattress, as well as the blood found on the bedroom carpet and the knife found in its sheath in the kitchen, which was believed to have been used to cut up the mattress. Investigators also discovered a letter allegedly written by Lori days before her death, which said, "I hate coming home from work because it hurts to be home in our apartment...I can't imagine life with you if things don't change," La Plante reported on August 13 in the Salt Lake Tribune. The article further quoted Lori as saying, "I got someone I don't want to spend the rest of my life with unless changes are made."

Video surveillance picture of Mark entering store
Video surveillance picture of Mark entering store

Furthermore, prosecutors were compiling video evidence of Mark. One surveillance video showed him entering a Maverick County Store to buy cigarettes, checking his hands and fingers and then driving away in his wife's car approximately "18 minutes after the time police believe Lori died," CNN stated in an August 4, 2004 article. Other video evidence that may be used at trial will likely include images of Mark disposing of Lori's body in a dumpster and video of him driving her car to the park, where he initially said she had gone missing.


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