By all outward appearances he was every parent's dream: tall, strong, handsome, athletic, successful.

It all came easy to Mark Hopkinson. Too easy, sometimes."He was very talented athletically," said his brother, Scott Hopkinson, of Murray. "He could have played pro basketball if he had wanted to. He's got dozens of football trophies from high school, and he had scholarship offers from all over to play football. It was easy for him."

Or so it seemed.

Ten years ago, Mark Hopkinson was sequestered from society - put behind bars in a Wyoming prison. Just before sunrise Tuesday, he is sentenced to die for the torture-murder of a potential witness who might have linked Hopkinson to three other killings.

Family and friends are still asking, "Why?" Mark Hopkinson's life wasn't supposed to end this way.

Born and raised in Fort Bridger near Evanston, Mark Hopkinson had the kind of life other youths dream about. All-state in football, he went on to play linebacker for the University of Arizona.

A quarterback on the team would later comment that "Mark Hopkinson had more talent than anyone else on the team."

But the local-boy-makes-the-big-time story faded once Mark packed his bags for Arizona. There was big money floating around in those days - big money for those who picked up or delivered marijuana.

Mark cashed in and got caught.

He spent 18 months in a federal penitentiary for his involvement in a scheme to deliver marijuana. "When picking friends and associates, he didn't use a lot of common sense," Scott said.

Upon release, Mark returned to Bridger Valley - at that time in the throes of an oil boom - where he hoped his fortunes would change. Though the family did not have a lot of money, Mark had a knack for finding ways of getting it.

He began developing a 40-unit trailer park, a small shopping center and clothing store - business projects that seemed to be going well.

And when things went well, Mark let people know.

"Mark has a lot of pride and sometimes hasn't got the smarts to know when to shut up," Scott Hopkinson said. "He was quite cocky - had no fear of anyone."

So not everyone was glad to see Mark come home. He dressed flashily, drove a Lincoln Continental and was a flytrap for beautiful women. And he always had money.

"But whether he had a dollar in his pocket or $1,000, it didn't matter. Money never mattered to him," Scott said. "And when you do well in business, it offends people."

Those who knew and liked Mark Hopkinson still defend him as a great person. If he fought, it was with hoodlums looking to beat up on others, they say. "He never knew when to say, `It's none of my business, I'll walk away.' "

His sister-in-law, Chris Hopkinson, remains his closest friend. "He was cocky, but he was sweet. He was always calling me to make sure Scott was taking good care of me."