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Jeremy Harmon, Deseret Morning News
John Elbert, left and Curt Adamson search the area around Ensign Peak for Lori Hacking on Wednesday. About 300 volunteers showed up.

Mark Hacking, the husband of missing jogger Lori Hacking, has not been accepted at medical school and never graduated from college, his father said Wednesday.

Mark Hacking had said the couple was ready to move to North Carolina so he could enter medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But his father, Douglas, said at a press conference Wednesday that police had confirmed his son had never even applied to school.

In fact, Hacking never graduated from the University of Utah and hadn't attended the U. in nearly two years, even though his family believed he had graduated with honors with a degree in psychology.

The University of Utah confirmed Wednesday that Hacking was a student from 1999 into the fall 2002 and majored in intermediate psychology but never graduated. He works at the University Neuropsychiatric Institute at the U. Research Park.

Also Wednesday, KSL-TV said Hacking was admitted to the University of Utah psychiatric unit earlier this week after his wife's disappearance. His family has only said that Mark was "resting" with his father and brothers.

Salt Lake police would not comment about Hacking's whereabouts or confirm he was admitted for psychiatric care, although detective Kevin Joiner said, "We know where he is."

Lori Hacking, 27, has been missing since Monday morning, when she allegedly went to jog before work in Memory Grove between 5:30 and 6 a.m. She was supposed to be at work at 7 a.m. Her car was found parked near the park's gates.

Lori Hacking was reported missing to police at 10:49 a.m. Family members said she was five weeks pregnant.

Startling news

News of Mark Hacking's academic record came from the Associated Press just minutes before a scheduled afternoon news conference involving both of Mark and Lori Hacking's parents. The news conference was delayed as all four parents heard the news about Mark Hacking's record for the first time and needed time to prepare a statement.

"I have no explanation for this new development," said Douglas Hacking, Mark's father. "I just can't understand it."

Before Wednesday, the Hackings had characterized their son as a good student with a happy marriage. His father said he planned to drive with Mark and Lori Hacking to North Carolina to help them move into their new apartment. The movers were reportedly scheduled to pick up their boxed belongings today.

Douglas Hacking said the family believed Mark had passed the medical school entrance exam with flying colors and had been accepted at North Carolina, his first choice. He called the new revelation "shocking," saying it only added to the family's stress.

Douglas Hacking said he didn't have additional information and needed to talk to Mark before he said anything more.

"We need time to digest this information," he said.

Before the news conference, Herald Soares, Lori's father, said he had no reason not to trust what Mark told him.

"All I know is he passed the test" to enter medical school, he said.

But Soares also added he didn't have time to worry about whether Mark lied about medical school.

"Picture yourself in my place. Are you going to worry about someone else or your daughter?" he asked.

'Person of interest'

Investigators knew of Hacking's school record Tuesday but did not inform the family, Baird said. He said at the time it was just a "small piece of information" in the overall puzzle.

Earlier in the day, Lance Hacking, Mark's older brother, said police were keeping the family up to date and "in the loop." But he said he realized detectives couldn't tell them everything, and they didn't want to pry.

"We don't want to compromise the investigation to satisfy our curiosity," he said.

Despite Hacking's apparent lie, police Wednesday were still classifying Lori Hacking as a "missing person" under suspicious circumstances.

"There is no question at this point that he (Mark Hacking) is a person of interest; he would be regardless" of the misinformation about his schooling, Salt Lake Police Chief Rick Dinse said during an impromptu press conference behind the police station Wednesday evening. Lori Hacking, he said, "is still a missing person at this point. We don't know where she's at. We believe, certainly, the circumstances of her disappearance (are) suspicious."

Dinse said he was "not calling anybody" a suspect yet. Nor would he say how many times police had spoken with Mark Hacking, if Hacking was cooperating with police or if conversations with Hacking had led police to any theories about what had happened to his wife.

'Lori is still missing'

While the Hacking family was digesting the news about the apparent deception, Thelma Soares, Lori's mother, made a tearful plea to continue the search for her daughter.

"Lori is still missing. There is nothing more important at this time than my Lori," she said.

Ross Williams defended Mark Hacking, a man whom Williams said has been his best friend since the two attended pre-school together. Williams believes Hacking had indeed been accepted to medical school — he had chosen between George Washington University and UNC Chapel Hill — and the two had recently discussed the differing costs of living in North Carolina and Utah and other aspects of moving, Williams said late Wednesday.

"It's garbage. You don't go to that extent on a hoax," said Williams, who works for the state's office of Adult Probation and Parole. "Any talk of Mark not telling the truth, I don't believe. Someone's made a mistake."

Williams said he was with Hacking in Memory Grove Monday as searchers combed a reflecting pool as part of the search effort.

"He was absolutely devastated," Williams said.

Police probe

Wednesday's strange twist of events capped off a busy day for Salt Lake City investigators.

Earlier in the day, investigators searched the Hackings' apartment near 100 South and 900 East for the second time in two days.

On Tuesday, when investigators spent "a good portion of the day" in the Hacking's apartment, "some items" were taken as evidence, although Salt Lake City police detective Dwayne Baird declined to identify those items.

Neighbors said they saw police carrying items such as computers, boxes and mattress springs out of the house. Police also removed a Dumpster from behind the apartment complex, where the Hackings were reportedly the building managers, several neighbors said. Police would not confirm reports they were looking at a mattress found inside the bin, according to the Associated Press.

A green police truck stayed in the neighborhood until about 8 p.m. Tuesday, said Ruth Ann Smith, whose front porch gives her a bird's-eye view of the front of the Hackings' apartment building.

Police had also seized both Mark and Lori Hacking's cars. Baird said that as of Wednesday nothing was found in them that raised red flags, and Smith said she saw someone return Lori Hacking's car to the parking lot Wednesday.

Baird also said a lot of clothing was found in the shrubs of City Creek Canyon, but none initially appeared to have belonged to Lori Hacking. Still, he said detectives were going over all items "methodically." The majority of clothing was believed to belong to transients.

Baird confirmed that investigators were at the Salt Lake City landfill Tuesday afternoon. He did not say what they were looking for or if they found anything.

"It was a lead that we had and chose to follow," was all Baird would say.

Dinse also declined to talk about specifics.

Volunteer effort

As police continued their investigation, family members organized groups of volunteers Wednesday to pass out fliers and go door to door looking for Lori Hacking.

But while an estimated 1,200 volunteers joined in the search effort in Memory Grove and City Creek Canyon Tuesday, slightly fewer than 300 volunteers showed up for Wednesday's search, according to organizers.

A command post was set up Wednesday for searchers at an LDS Church meetinghouse near 200 North and 100 West. Volunteers checked in and then were given a specific area in which to distribute Lori Hacking's photo.

News of Mark Hacking's apparent deceptions didn't seem to bother volunteer David Pratt. A laborer who took the day off to come help with the search, Pratt, 27, said he'd climbed all over Ensign Peak talking to those living in transient camps and calling out Lori Hacking's name.

"It doesn't really matter to me," Pratt said, referring to Mark Hacking. "She still needs to be found."


Contributing: Leigh Dethman

E-mail: preavy@desnews.com; jdobner@desnews.com