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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News
Lori Hacking's father, Herald Soares, left, mother, Thelma, and brother, Paul, talk to the media.

The woman who said she saw Lori Hacking outside Memory Grove early Monday now says she is not certain that was the case.

Joan Mullaney says she saw a woman running toward the park gate, not one stretching next to a car, as early reports said. The woman was fit and was wearing a red sports bra and a gray T-shirt and had a long brown ponytail. But Mullaney said she never saw the woman's face.

"It was never a sure thing," Mullaney said Friday, explaining that she noticed the woman about 5:45 a.m. when picking up a newspaper from her front porch. "I was never clear that it really was her. I just said it could be. I really wish I could be clearer."

Mullaney's Canyon Road home is three doors south of the entrance to Memory Grove park where Hacking, 27, allegedly went missing during a sunrise jog. Repeated searches of the area by police and volunteers haven't located the young woman, whose husband reported her missing at 10:49 a.m. that day.

Salt Lake City police detective Dwayne Baird said he would not speculate as to whether Mullaney actually saw Lori Hacking, or some other jogger, entering the canyon. Nor would he say that Mullaney was recanting an earlier statement.

"The woman who was the witness in the Memory Grove area indicated she saw a woman that morning who matched the description fairly closely to the woman we were looking for," Baird said. "However, she realized it was early in the morning, not much sunlight, and she wasn't certain that it was (Lori) because she didn't know who she was."

Witnesses statements, Baird added, are "just part of the investigative process, and we have to look at all aspects."

Mullaney's neighbor, Nancy Becker, saw Lori Hacking's gray car parked under a tree in front of her home, but she said she never saw the young woman. She did see Mark Hacking, Lori's husband, run out of the grove and join several friends who were knocking on residents' doors asking if anyone had seen Lori or anything unusual.

"He was very distraught, he was saying, 'I should have been with her,' " Becker said. "He was crying."

Possible evidence

But Becker and others are now wondering about Mark Hacking's tears. In the days since his pregnant wife disappeared without a trace, Hacking has been admitted to a psychiatric unit at the University Hospital, and it was discovered he had lied about plans to begin medical school in North Carolina this fall.

Other questions have focused on Hacking's purchase of a new mattress Monday morning and a late-night "disturbance" during which Hacking was found by police near-naked on the grounds of a local motel.

"It really makes you wonder," Becker said. "Something about the timetable doesn't add up."

On Friday, crime lab technicians added some possible new pieces to the evidence being collected in the case. They took pictures and swabs of liquid from the inside of a trash can at a house across the street from the Hackings' apartment building. Monday night, the plastic green can was found lined with a pungent brown liquid and maggots, resident Devan Hite said.

"It was definitely a protein-rich substance, it was very pungent . . . ," said Hite, adding that stains and residue from the liquid in the can made it appear as if something had been poured from the can. "It's just awfully curious. We eat very little meat, we eat chicken, and what we do eat wouldn't leave that much liquid."

Hite said he put the garbage can out late Sunday night in preparation for Monday morning collection. His family, he said, questioned what might have been in there and how it got there. Then, on Thursday, Hite concluded that the can might contain a clue for police.

After about an hour at the Hite home Friday, technicians removed residue and left, he said.

"They were a little disappointed, I think," he said. "I actually tried to clean it with (bleach), so they didn't have as much to look at."

Mattress purchase

In their attempts to follow leads and collect evidence that might help find Lori Hacking, Salt Lake police have seized numerous items from the couple's home, including a set of box springs, computers and a Dumpster from behind their Lincoln Street (945 East) apartment. Police are also looking at the couple's financial situation in order to determine if there were problems that could have caused any serious marital discord, Baird said.

Of particular interest in the case on Friday was the mattress Mark Hacking bought 26 minutes before calling police to report Lori's disappearance. Hacking's credit card was cleared for the purchase at 10:23 a.m.

Chad Downs, owner of Bradley's Sleep Etc., 2255 S. 300 West, said he didn't notice anything unusual about Hacking's behavior during the purchase. Downs said he helped tie the mattress to the top of Hacking's car before the 28-year-old left the store.

Within 30 minutes of leaving the store, Hacking was reportedly jogging the trails of Memory Grove looking for his wife, who failed to show up for work Monday at 7 a.m. The route was three miles up and three miles back.

Family support

But even as police call Mark Hacking a "person of interest" in the investigation and as questions and contradictions mount, the families of both Mark and Lori Hacking publicly displayed support for him Friday.

Douglas Hacking, Mark's father, said he visited his son at the hospital, looked him directly in the eye, and asked him if he had anything to do with Lori's disappearance.

"He looked me in the eye and said, 'No,' " Douglas Hacking said.

Nevertheless, many unanswered questions about Mark Hacking's behavior and apparent lies to his family over the past two years hung over the family Friday.

Until Tuesday, Hacking's family thought Mark had graduated in May from the University of Utah with a degree in psychology and had been admitted to medical school in North Carolina. In reality, Hacking dropped out of college in 2002 and had never even applied for medical school.

Hacking allegedly sent out invitations for his graduation but then said he was ill on graduation day.

Douglas Hacking said the events of the past week had been tough on the family.

"We didn't see it coming. We got completely blindsided by this," he said.

Hacking also said Friday that were it not for the suspicion surrounding his son, the case might not have received as much media attention as it has. But he said he was leaving questions concerning his son's behavior to police.

"The police are doing a thorough job. We wouldn't want anything less than that," he said. "We want (the investigation) done well, and we want it done right. We think the authorities are attempting to do that."

Hacking said his family has decided not to ask Mark many questions about the case. However, Douglas Hacking said questions about whether he had anything to do with Lori's disappearance and his schooling were something he wanted "straight answers" from his son. Everything else he said he would let police handle.

"We want the truth to come out, no matter what the consequences, and I think it will," he said.

Focusing on Lori

Rumors circulated that signs of dissension were starting to show between the families of Mark and Lori Hacking, but all members of the Hacking and Soares families appeared at a press conference Friday morning arm-in-arm in a show of unity. Their message seemed to be that despite what was happening with Mark Hacking the focus should still be on Lori.

"I'm sorry all of the attention that has been toward our son, Mark, has hindered our efforts to find Lori," Douglas Hacking said. "I hope everyone won't assume Mark had anything to do with her disappearance and it's fruitless to look for her. We are not going to be diverted by all the other allegations and other things of interest."

Thelma Soares, Lori's mother, offered a tearful plea to keep the focus on her daughter.

"We know where Mark is. We don't know where Lori is," she said. "We're aware of all of the rumors and speculation surrounding this case. I'm removing myself from all of that because my baby is still out there somewhere, and we need to find her."

Hacking said his son was on medication at the hospital and undergoing psychological testing.

The search received a much-needed surge Friday with more than 530 volunteers coming to an LDS meetinghouse at 142 W. 200 North to join the effort. On Thursday, the number of volunteers had dipped to less than 300 after about 1,200 earlier in the week.

Search organizers plan to pass out fliers and buttons with Lori's picture on it before this morning's Deseret Morning News Marathon and the Days of '47 Parade in downtown Salt Lake City.

Candlelight vigil set

Friends and family of Lori and Mark Hacking are planning a candlelight vigil for the missing woman. The vigil will begin at 7 p.m. Sunday in Memory Grove.


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