10 years after murder, Lori Hacking's mother forgives, but 'will never get over it'
"I did not see the coverage of Lori's search nor anything that followed — not until about a year after I came to prison. I see the pain, grief and anger of victims of loved ones, and I try to glean any understanding of what it was like for you and so many others. I am so sorry. I know I have said/written that many times, always sincerely. But with less understanding. Sorry is another inadequate term, but I feel that sorrow to my bones. I am so very sorry. When I look back, I can't imagine why I made so many terrible and illogical choices. I don't understand my own thought processes nor the effects of them on those I loved. None of it makes sense, though you've known that from beginning," he wrote.
"l've been trying to make the most of life in here, but apathy is a constant threat and sometimes it wins. Hopelessness and helplessness can keep me from doing all I should and I often find myself merely coping. I'm not complaining. This is merely the harvest of the seeds I sow."
Hacking wrote that he has read 1,020 books while in prison. Soares recalled how he was always very smart and how he loved doing word puzzles at her house.
In 2005, Hacking and his family released a statement following his sentencing. There is no such thing as a little white lie, he said at that time. The family also said it would be their final statement to the media about the incident.
Hacking declined to talk to the Deseret News for this story. He also relayed a message through Utah State Prison officials that said "he does not plan to do any interviews on this in the future."
In addition to exchanging letters with Hacking, Soares said she also frequently exchanges emails with members of his family.
"They're a wonderful family. They don't come any better than that family and the kids," she said.
When Soares talks of Hacking, she recalls how he was always helping others. She tells stories of him being late for a date with Lori because he'd stop to help a neighbor fix something in their house, or the many times he was on her own roof fixing her swamp cooler.
"He was just this good kid," she said. "The problem with Mark was he suffered from depression."
Forgiveness and peace
Soares has also had several spiritual experiences after her daughter's death that have helped her to move on. One was a blessing she received from an LDS Church general authority. The other was a voice she heard that told her Lori was not in the landfill. At that point, Lori's body had not yet been found. But when it was eventually located there, Soares said she knew that her daughter was already gone.
"Lori's not in the landfill. It's not Lori that's up there. It's her body that's there. Lori is not in the landfill," she said.
While forgiving her son-in-law "doesn't make anything that he did right," Soares said she had to do it for her own sake, not for his.
"People have so many different ideas of what forgiveness means. And I guess it means different things to different people. Does it mean what I think he did was OK? Of course not! Does it mean that I have some understanding of why he did it? Yes," she said. "I'm the one who's benefited from that, not him. I mean, he's still in prison. He said in other letters — he calls them monstrous, hideous things that he did — 'I should never get out of here. I don't deserve to get out of here.' He thinks he should be in there for his life."
Soares said she didn't even realize she had forgiven Hacking until she heard the late James E. Faust, a former member of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, give a talk about the subject.
"If you've forgiven someone, you still feel anguish but not anger. You still feel hurt but not hate. That's exactly how I feel," she said.
One of Soares' favorite scriptures is John 14:27 that talks about peace: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
"Somehow the Lord gives you peace," she said. "My heart was broken, but it was not troubled or afraid."
In addition to the pictures on the walls, Soares has received gifts and donations from people all over the world. Memorials made in her daughter's memory hang throughout the house along with honorary diplomas.
"I had no idea people were so kind and so good," she said.
She recalled that at the height of the donations she was receiving, some people would send money and simply address their envelopes: "Lori Hacking's mother, Salt Lake City," and the post office made sure it got to her.
Soares still has the "wrinkled dollar bill" and the dime that a young boy gave her after his mother baked him cookies and he sold them to raise money for Lori's fund.
Today, the University of Utah continues to award the Lori Hacking Scholarship annually to at least one student and will cover the cost of the junior and senior years of study. Soares said the recipients are women who have overcome difficult circumstances to get into college. One recent recipient came from Ukraine, she said, and another from Haiti.
"I think Lori is so happy about all of these young women her scholarship has helped," she said.
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