The husband of missing jogger Lori Hacking has retained a prominent local criminal defense attorney, and reports surfaced Monday of co-workers seeing a tearful Lori Hacking leave work early three days before she disappeared.
Mark Hacking has hired D. Gilbert Athay, who has represented many high-profile criminal defendants from death-row inmates to public officials and college athletes.
"We have no comment," Athay said as he left his downtown office during the noon hour Monday. "Yes, I am his attorney."
Athay declined to state how long he had been speaking with the Hacking family or if he had already met with Mark Hacking. Hacking family spokesman Scott Dunaway said he had been retained within the past week. When asked how they were led to Athay, Dunaway said it was simply name recognition.
"Anyone here locally will know that name," he said.
Admitted to the state bar in 1967, Athay joined two other high-profile Utah defense attorneys in 1989 and launched the Rocky Mountain Defense Fund, a nonprofit coalition dedicated to putting an end to the death penalty in Utah.
Through his work with the fund, Athay has represented notable killers Pierre Dale Selby, Elroy Tillman and John Albert Taylor. All three men served time on Utah's death row Selby for the 1974 torture and slaying of three people at Ogden's Hi Fi Shop; Tillman for the 1982 murder of Mark Schoenfeld; and Taylor for the 1989 rape and strangulation of an 11-year-old Washington Terrace girl.
Selby was executed in 1987 after Athay spent 14 years representing him on appeal. Taylor was executed by firing squad in 1996; Tillman's death sentence was vacated in January 2003.
Athay was last in the news in October for his representation of University of Utah running back Marty Johnson, who was charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence.
Lori Hacking was reported missing July 19. Her husband Mark has been considered a "person of interest" by police almost since she disappeared because of the way he deceived his family about his schooling for two years.
Both Mark and Lori Hacking's families believed Mark graduated in May from the University of Utah with a degree in psychology and was planning on moving soon to North Carolina to attend medical school. In reality, Mark dropped out of college in 2002 and never applied to medical school.
Several of Lori Hacking's co-workers told the Associated Press she had been arranging for on-campus housing at the University of North Carolina medical school and that they believe the school was returning a call to her Friday to say her husband, Mark Hacking, wasn't enrolled there.
Lori Hacking left work early after receiving the call the afternoon of Friday, July 16.
Lori Hacking, a 27-year-old trading assistant who just learned she was five weeks pregnant, was a private woman who didn't share personal troubles, making her breakdown in the office all the more unusual, say colleagues at Wells Fargo Securities Services.
"She was visibly upset. She started to cry and got up to walk away," her supervisor, Randy Church, told the AP on Monday. When co-workers asked her what was wrong, she replied, "It's no big deal; I'm OK. But I think I will go home,' " Church recounted.
Officials at the University of North Carolina were trying to determine whether one of their administrators made the call.
But Lori Hacking's co-workers gave accounts of the phone call to homicide detectives after she was reported missing.
"We wouldn't have any reason to doubt" the Wells Fargo employee accounts, detective Dwayne Baird said Monday. He would not comment further, but later dismissed suggestions that an arrest was imminent.
Church said detectives showed up at Wells Fargo the day after Hacking's disappearance and inspected her e-mail and computer files.
It was about 10 a.m. July 19 that Mark Hacking placed a call to his wife's office, speaking first to Brandon Hodge, another trading assistant she was training. He didn't ask where his wife was, but instead how she was doing, Hodge told the AP.
"By the way, how is Lori?" Hacking reportedly asked. Hodge said he replied, "Well, she's not made it into work yet."
Church then took the phone and recalls Hacking saying she hadn't returned from a sunrise jog at Memory Grove, a downtown park near the office. Hacking made it seem he was calling from his apartment, Church said.
"Oh, my God, her (work) clothes are still here," Hacking reportedly said to Church, who had been expecting Lori Hacking at 7 a.m. and said she was never late to work.
"I said, 'You need to call police immediately. Just get off the phone,' " Church said.
But Mark Hacking did not immediately call police, and police say he was at a store buying a new mattress shortly before reporting his wife missing.
Three of her co-workers who spoke to the AP said they showed up at Memory Grove before Mark Hacking joined them. When he arrived in his Dodge Durango, they told him his wife already had been reported missing. He then placed a call of his own to police dispatchers.
Hacking began an aimless search, walking and pondering before taking off on his own and abandoning Lori's co-workers. But first, he sat in his sport-utility vehicle with an address book on his lap, making phone calls, apparently to relatives who said they received the news about that time.
Results on some of the evidence collected by police, including a mattress recovered from a trash bin and a box spring taken from the apartment, could come back from a laboratory this week.
Mark Hacking, a night-shift hospital orderly, has been at the University of Utah psychiatric ward since early Tuesday morning after creating a disturbance at the Chase Suite Hotel, 765 E. 400 South, while wearing nothing but a pair of sandals, according to a hotel worker. Dunaway said Monday afternoon Hacking was still at the hospital.
Salt Lake City police still had few details to release Monday about evidence collected in the case.
Baird said the case is still being handled as a "missing person" incident and Mark Hacking is a "person of interest." But Baird also said Monday he was not aware of anyone else investigators had labeled as a person of interest and that it was a missing person case that was "very suspicious."
"Much of what we have to look at has to do with him," he said.
When asked if investigators were aware of any other lies in addition to Mark Hacking's school record, Baird said, "It's easier to talk about the things he has been truthful about." After a short pause, he continued, "I can't think of any off the top of my head."
In fact, Baird said he couldn't think of anyone, including friends and family, who fully believe everything Hacking has been saying.
Baird also confirmed the Salt Lake District Attorney's Office has been kept up to date on the developments in the case. "Even a missing persons case can be a criminal investigation," he said.
Monday, the Salt Lake City Police Department put out a request for anyone who was in Memory Grove or City Creek Canyon between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. on July 19, the day Lori was reported missing, to call police at 700-3000.
In other new developments:
Salt Lake City police have confirmed they are reviewing a surveillance video tape from the R.C. Willey furniture store, 2301 W. 300 West, where Mark Hacking reportedly attempted to purchase a new mattress.
Police also confirmed an investigative team that included forensic investigators Monday checked out a trash bin near the hospital ward where Mark Hacking is staying. It was unknown Monday afternoon what, if anything, was found.
Approximately 125 volunteers participated in the search effort Monday for Lori, a significant drop from the nearly 4,000 on Sunday. The family said it would continue search efforts through the end of the week but then may have to re-evaluate the situation.
"You can't sustain the same level of involvement as the past week," Dunaway said. "At some point the family will decide to move into another phase (of the search)."
Agents from the state's department of Adult Probation and Parole have made the rounds of parolees, especially sex offenders whose methods of selecting their victims matched the story of Lori Hacking's disappearance, Department of Corrections spokesman Jack Ford said.