Few people have ever been able to understand what motivated convicted killer Mark W. Hofmann. Hofmann's unexpected suicide attempt now has experts asking "why" once again.

"I'm happy with my plea bargain," Hofmann told Salt Lake County attorney's investigator Mike George in an interview two weeks ago. "I love being here. At least I'm not dead now."Because Hofmann, a self-described loner, seemed absolutely content to spend 23 hours a day alone behind bars studying and watching TV, George was stunned to learn of Hofmann's alleged suicide attempt.

"There was no indication he was suicidal. In fact, he seemed so happy with prison, I was taken back by his attitude," George said.

While Hofmann's appearance has changed dramatically - he has shaved his head and lost a lot of weight - he basically remains the person George had come to understand during the past three years - a loner, a sociopath, a man "utterly devoid of a conscience."

The families of Hofmann's victims are not shocked by his contempt for God and the sanctity of life.

Because they have been forced to try to understand Hofmann in coping with the senselessness of their loved ones' deaths, they had already concluded the murderer is narcissistic, cowardly, evil and incapable of feeling remorse.

Joan Gorton, sister of Kathleen Sheets, said, "I wish he would die, then it would be over. I want the publicity to end.

"He only feels pain for himself. Maybe he feels empty or rotten about being in prison, but he certainly doesn't feel remorse. He doesn't feel normal human feelings."

Although the Sheets family did not seek the death penalty for Hofmann, the family wouldn't be sad to see him die, if he wants to take his own life, Gorton said.

The authors of three books about Hofmann's murders and forgeries believe Hofmann's motive for taking his life went beyond emotions like despair or grief. He would only commit suicide if it accomplished a purpose he calmly selected and pursued, they said.

But the authors can't agree on what that purpose might be.

"Based on the psychological profiles done on him, I would have thought he had too much ego to seriously attempt suicide," said Gregory White Smith, co-author of "The Mormon Murders."

Smith's co-author, Steven Naifef, concurred. "I think he was sitting out there in prison bored out of his mind after having been the center of attention since 1980."

Linda Sillitoe, co-author of "Salamander," disagreed that Hofmann would attempt suicide just for publicity. "Three books have come out about him. He's got a mini-series coming out. He's got a full-length feature movie coming out. He's got all the limelight he could possibly want. If anything, you would think he would want to stick around and see it all."

The decision would be a coolly deliberated one, she said. He would rationally consider his options, deem suicide his best option, get some pills and do it.

"This has to fit the pattern of the deliberate, calculated forgeries and the deliberate, calculated bombs," she said.

Allen Roberts, a friend of bombing victim Steve Christensen and co-author of the book "Salamander," believes that Hofmann may have been conning himself and his audience by indicating he was happy in prison.

A man just released from prison told Roberts that Hofmann "is regarded as a zero" by inmates. "Mark doesn't really fit in with the other inmates because he hasn't served time before and he doesn't have any prior criminal record. He's really a fish out of water," said Roberts.

Since his childhood, Hofmann has always thrived on gaining control over others through his tricks and deceptions. But because his forgeries have been exposed, "Hofmann doesn't have any gullible subjects for his con artistry. He doesn't get the same perks that used to feed his ego," Roberts said.