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About Utah: Marriage a facade, but Lori was saint

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It was the epitome of a perfect marriage."

Those words, more than any others, have been the most haunting for me in the 2 1/2 months since Lori Hacking went missing.

I heard them from a relative of Lori's just two days after Lori's husband, Mark, reported that she went out for a jog in Memory Grove and never returned — and just one day after police reported that Mark Hacking's story that he was a college graduate headed for medical school was not true.

The scene was an LDS ward house on the west side of Salt Lake City, where family, friends and volunteers were organizing searches for Lori. A number of relatives (Lori's, not Mark's) paused to talk about Mark and Lori's "perfect marriage" — a subjective judgment not dulled, at least at that juncture, by the revelations that Mark wasn't just a liar, but a really elaborate, accomplished liar.

I filled several pages of a notebook with remarks like, "They were married five years, but the way they acted it was like five minutes," "Their honeymoon never ended," "He adored her. He always had his arms around her. They did everything together. He didn't let her out of his sight," and "He was the most attentive husband I have ever seen."

Of course, the case's shocking and bizarre developments have progressively revealed that Lori Hacking's husband was a lot more, and less, than was apparent on the surface. If Mark Hacking's reported confessions to his own brothers are to be believed, he murdered his wife and tried to cover it up with yet more lies. Friday's discovery of Lori Hacking's remains at the Salt Lake County landfill would seem to second that fact.

Finding the remains can't rewrite the sad story, but it can —and I'm guessing will — bring closure to those who were closest to Mark and Lori Hacking and need irrefutable proof that what they witnessed with their own eyes was a facade.

Perfect marriages, no matter how attentive the husband, do not end in murder.

It's ironic that in her death Lori Hacking received the unswerving loyalty, support and unconditional love that were for so long a presumed part of her marriage.

First, thousands physically searched for her in the mountains her husband said she went missing in. Then, week after long week, dedicated law enforcement workers searched through piles of refuse.

No stones were left unturned.

It is appropriate that a human being, and not a cadaver-sniffing dog, made the discovery Friday that brought the sifting to a successful conclusion.

It wasn't just a criminal case the searchers were trying to close but the tortured minds of all who knew and genuinely loved Lori Hacking.

Those were the other comments I filled my notebook with just two days after she went missing. Relative after relative — both Lori's and Mark's — paused to echo superlatives. "The most cheerful person I knew," "A saint — the kind of person who would do anything for you." "The sweetest, kindest woman."

Now that it is 100 percent positive that that sweet, kind woman is no longer with us, that memory of Lori Hacking can be preserved. After all the searching, sifting and sorting things out, there is no reason to suspect that that isn't the absolute truth. One half of the marriage was what it appeared.

Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.