Lori Hacking's mother speaks to coalition
The Emery County Domestic Violence coalition hosted their annual domestic violence awareness luncheon on Nov. 4. This activity topped off a month long campaign to increase awareness and prevention of domestic violence. The coalition submitted a series of articles which appeared in the Emery County Progress each week in October.
Domestic Violence coalition secretary, Nancy Orgill welcomed the large audience and introduced the guest speaker, Thelma Soares. Soares is originally from Delta. She is the mother of Lori Hacking who was murdered by her husband, Mark Hacking on July 19, 2004. Soares said she is still emotional and hasn't reached the stage where she doesn't cry when she talks about her daughter Lori and her life and brutal death.
Soares said the domestic violence coalition's theme for the luncheon and the awareness month has been, "The Ripple Effect of Domestic Violence."
She said she would describe those effects in her own life. The ripples from the murder of her daughter have been both good and bad. Whenever Soares sees a garbage truck she relives the nightmare of Lori being thrown in a dumpster and picked up by a garbage truck and taken to the landfill where her body was compacted.
Soares read a number of letters from people who knew Lori well and also from strangers who were moved by the events of Lori's death. Some relatives of Lori wrote to the judge and told of the effects Lori's death has had on them. A niece of the family from California said she couldn't eat or sleep and spent a lot of time crying. She asked her friends in Salt Lake to aid in the search for Lori. In the letter she described her anger towards Mark and said her 5-year old daughter is fearful and afraid that something might happen to her mom, "I am furious at Mark for what he has put my children through. No family should have to endure what our family has had to go through."
Lori has a cousin on the east coast and Lori emailed her just days before her death to tell the cousin where they were relocating and her hopes that they could get together after the Hackings relocated to the east coast. The cousin hasn't been able to delete the email, because it was the last communication she had with Lori. "It's taken a toll on our whole family. I just can't get the images of blood and horror out of my mind. I feel like it will never go away."
Soares feels like she was drawn into the web of lies that Mark created. "As I thought back to my actions in his lies. I didn't know the reality. Things are not always as they seem to be," said Soares.
Lori's friend Holly described her feelings. She wonders what Lori's last day and minutes of her life were like. She replays it over and over. The love of Lori's life had lied to her. Holly can't get over the image of Lori being shot and thrown into the garbage. Every year Holly and other friends of Lori go to dinner on July 19 and then to the cemetery to visit Lori's gravesite.
When Soares appeared on the Oprah show, the show flew in one of Lori's friends Christy Goodrow who went to BYU with Mark and Lori. Lori was her visiting teacher. Goodrow said the death of Lori, left a big hole in her life and it is a loss she will not get over. The death of Lori shook Christy to the core and she became afraid to go outside and be around other people.
"If Mark Hacking was the kind of person who could murder then how could I trust anyone that they were who they said they were," Christy told Soares.
One of Lori's co-workers felt she was a victim, too of Mark's actions. Trusting someone can get you killed. She knows these feelings aren't rational, but they are real. She doesn't sleep well and has a hard time finding the good in life.
Soares said she has boxes of letters and emails from people around America and around the world. One letter said, "Lori has become the daughter of America and your (Soares) nightmare has become America's nightmare. Others have send letters which state even though they never knew Lori, in life, they have come to know her now. Soares has received many letters from fathers who are scared for their daughters, scared to let them date and marry.
Soares said she doesn't have answers for these fathers. "Mark was an outstanding young man and he asked my permission to marry Lori, which I gave," said Soares.
At the time of Lori's disappearance, the Elizabeth Smart family helped set up the search for Lori. Soares mentioned that dealing with the media is like having a wolf for a pet. They got the information out there about Lori's disappearance but only about half of what they reported was true. Soares said she has learned never to trust what she sees or hears in the media. She got to where she would have the reporters email their questions to her and she would email replies and tell them they could only use her emailed answers. She said a book has been written about the whole episode which is full of half truths.
Soares said one of the worst ripple effects has been the turmoil caused for the Hacking family. They have four sons and three daughters. "They are outstanding and accomplished kids," said Soares. She said Scott Hacking, a brother, finished his residency at the UofU and went to the University of Rochester to become a cardiologist. The father, Doug Hacking is a pediatrician in Orem. "Mark's mother is a refined, beautiful woman."
Soares said after Lori's remains were found, Good Morning America asked her some questions, she told them she hoped they didn't misunderstand, but she was really glad that she is Lori's mom and not Mark's mom. "It's horrible to lose Lori and I will never get over it, but they have it worse. They see him, once every three weeks. They are good people and they didn't deserve this," said Soares.
Soares showed the audience the shoes, she wore, she said they were Lori's running shoes and the necklaces and earrings belonged to Lori. "I couldn't fit into any of her clothes, she was a size 6. We gave her things away to her friends and to the Hacking girls. There have been many good effects too."
Soares told of a letter writer who saw her on Larry King. She said she had been following Lori's story and was a victim of domestic abuse, herself. Lori's death served as a wake-up call for her. Her husband is a New York City police officer and she feared her situation could and would get worse. This victim gained courage from Lori's story and was able to leave her abusive relationship and she said for her Lori would live forever. She can now walk down the street and hold her head up without fear. 'You have given me the ultimate gift,' she said. "That was a good ripple effect," said Soares.
Soares spoke at the Christmas Box House that first December after Lori was killed. Every year on the first Monday of December across the nation, people who have lost children, light a candle and remember their lost loved ones in a special ceremony. The Christmas Box House serves as a shelter for abandoned or abused children.
Soares said she often referred to Lori as her angel baby, because she waited so long for her. People have sent her boxes of angels. She donated these angels to be the decorations for the tree inside the Christmas Box House. There is a tree up in the foyer of the house that stands year round and it's decorated for each different holiday.
Many people also donated money at the time of Lori's death. With this money, Soares has started a scholarship fund at the UofU in Lori's name. She has received many donations from children who sent small amounts of money. One child wrote she was sad for Lori so she was selling cookies so she could donate the money to scholarship fund. She said Lori is with Heavenly Father. One child said, 'I can only send $5, but that's $5 more than you had before.' One girl wrote, 'I am sending you money out of my own stack of money. I feel your pain, why would anyone do something so mean.'
Soares said Oprah also donated $50,000 to the fund. The fund has given one and sometimes two scholarships a year. The scholarships go to women who have had a troubled past, victims of abuse or single mothers. "Lori knew how important it was to go to school. Do I wish I didn't have to do this, Of course, but it has been a good ripple effect, (scholarship fund)," said Soares.
Soares said of all the letters she's received only a handful didn't mention God and angels. "People all over the world, believe in these principles."
Soares said Lori wasn't a victim of ongoing physical abuse, but her abuse was being lied to by her husband. He lied about his schooling and graduating from the UofU and other things. Soares said Mark has apologized to her.
Soares said there didn't seem to be any warning signs that this one violent act would end her daughters life. Mark suffered from clinical depression during high school and would sometimes go for long drives, which Lori said helped Mark when he could get away by himself. Soares said she never could figure out what Mark had to be depressed about. "I wish I knew more about mental conditions," said Soares. Depressed or compulsive people, spend money or overeat, then they feel worse.
Soares said she has written to Mark. He loved animals, children and old people. He used to help an elderly lady. He has put in a sprinkler system, put up Christmas lights for people and "he was a tender hearted person, so how did he kill Lori," questioned Soares. Soares said she knows the reason that Mark killed Lori, but she's not at liberty to share it out of respect for the Hacking family. She said some people thought he killed her to cover up the lies, but that wasn't the reason. Soares said she is at peace with it, but Lori is still gone. "Half my life disappeared. When you forgive someone you are the one who benefits," said Soares.
On the Friday, before Lori's death she had contacted the University in North Carolina and they told her Mark wasn't enrolled there. She called Mark at that time, but couldn't get a hold of him to question him about it. He waited to call her back, after he knew the university would be closed. That night they attended a going away party for Lori at a cabin belonging to her boss from Wells Fargo. Their plans were to go back to North Carolina on Tuesday. Everything in the apartment was boxed up for the move. On Sunday they went to a friend's house for a farewell party. They left the party at 9 p.m. At 10:30 Sunday night they took the items out of the refrigerator and took them to Mark's sister. The lady from the university was supposed to call Lori back on Monday. Lori was killed that Sunday night sometime after 10:30 p.m. when she was last seen alive by family members.
Mark is currently incarcerated in the Utah State Prison and his first hearing with the Board of Pardons is in 2034. At the time of Mark's crime the sentence for domestic murder was 5 years-life. Since then and with the help of Lori's father, it is now 15 years to life in prison.
Soares responded to questions from the audience. The question was asked, 'What kept you sane during this process?' Soares said her faith is what sustained her during the tragedy. She had a rough time in the days before they found Lori's body. Lori weighed 115 pounds and when they found her, Soares said they buried 15 pounds of bone fragments, teeth and hair. All the letters Soares received helped her go on and people were so kind. She also went to a counselor from the BYU psychology department a few times. At a time when Soares was to appear before the judge, then she went to the counselor to receive guidance because she was anxious. "My faith was the only thing that brought me through this. It anchored me. I have a lot of empathy for people who turn to drugs or suicide. The pain is so intense you don't want to live. You think, 'I can't live with this pain.' This is not the end. Lori's life was too short. I know I will see her again, that knowledge has anchored me. I don't know what I would have done without it. It doesn't matter what your religious faith is. That belief in God, is an anchor," said Soares.
"To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die," is one of the quotes on artwork given to Soares. She played a recording of a song called, "Walk in the World for me."
The time has come for me to say goodbye.
No sad farewells will we share.
For you will live within me, and I will live in you.
No words can say how much we care.
Walk in the world for me. Sing a happy melody,
And keep my memory not far away.
May you find that life will bring all the best of everything.
Take special care of you for me today.
We've walked together on the dusty roads of life,
But kept our eyes upon a star.
We've laughed at the little things, and cried along the way.
I've come to know the friends you are.