Utah man pleads not guilty to first-degree murder in death of wife

Friday, October 29th 2004, 7:30 am
By: News On 6

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ A man pleaded not guilty Friday to first-degree murder in the death of his wife, whose remains were found in a landfill weeks after her disappearance.

The judge set Mark Hacking's trial for April 18. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.

Authorities believe Lori Hacking, 27, was killed July 19 after learning her husband wasn't enrolled in medical school in North Carolina, though they were arranging to move there. It was among a series of deceptions Mark Hacking had perpetuated over several years, police say.

The victim's brother, Paul Soares, sent a letter to Hacking in jail, urging him to ``be a man'' and plead guilty, according to a newspaper story Friday.

``Save your family the grief and cost of this attorney. Just plead guilty for once. Just tell the truth. Take responsibility for your actions,'' Soares wrote, according to the Deseret Morning News.

``Your father said you were determined to do what is right _ even if it costs you your life. ... Just tell the judge the truth. Admit it. Don't ask for some lenient plea bargain. Be a man,'' the letter continued.

Hacking's defense attorney has indicated he would take the case to trial and challenge Hacking's alleged confession to his brothers that he shot his wife while she slept and disposed of her remains, the weapon and a mattress in the trash.

Defense attorney Gil Athay declined to discuss his plans Friday. Prosecutor Robert Stott said no discussions have been held about a plea agreement.

Hacking's parents, Douglas and Janet Hacking, attended the hearing but left without commenting. Hacking's brother, Scott, said he wasn't looking forward to testifying against Mark in what would be an emotional trial.

``Any time they call a family member to testify against another family member, it's going to be painful,'' he said, adding that Mark Hacking was ``under extensive psychiatric testing'' while in jail.