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Salt Lake detective is Officer of the Year

Department also honors the unit that solved Hacking case

Recognizing officers for their good work in one of the most high-profile murder cases in Utah history and for an old serial rapist case highlighted the 25th annual Salt Lake City Police Department Awards Banquet.

Detective Cathy Schoney was awarded Officer of the Year at the ceremony this past week.

"I'm just really honored the police department chose me. There are probably more deserving people; everyone here works hard," she said.

Schoney reopened the so-called Parkway Rapist case in 2004 after the State Crime Lab came up with a positive DNA match.

Between 1990 and 1993 there was a rash of 13 rapes along the Jordan River Parkway that went unsolved. DNA allegedly linked Rudy Romero, who was already serving time in the Utah State Prison, to five of those cases.

But the statute of limitations for the crimes was expired, and Romero was due to be released in just a couple of months.

"We were just kind of stuck. We were dead in the water with it," Schoney said. "It really concerned me this guy was just going to walk away from all this."

Rather than give up, Schoney went to the Board of Pardons with the new information. With just one month to go before Romero was to be paroled after serving 10-plus years for a robbery conviction, the board rescinded Romero's parole and set a new parole hearing for 2029. Romero has since sued the state.

Schoney has talked to all 13 victims since Romero's parole was revoked, and all are extremely happy.

"(The case) renewed my commitment to the victim," she said. "I assumed this would have faded into the background. But it didn't with most of them.

"We owe our victims. We really do. You cannot believe how this still affects them," she said.

While Schoney received the biggest individual award at this year's ceremony, numerous other detectives were recognized for their work in the Lori Hacking murder case.

Hacking, 27, who was reportedly pregnant, was shot and killed by her husband, Mark Hacking, on July 19, 2004.

Initially, Hacking appeared to be a grieving husband who said his wife disappeared after going for a morning jog in City Creek Canyon.

His series of lies began to unfold, however, and Hacking eventually confessed. He admitted killing his wife and putting her body in a Dumpster. Her body was eventually found at the Salt Lake City Landfill.

The seven-member homicide unit that not only solved Lori's murder but also volunteered at night to search the landfill were recognized as the department's Unit of the Year.

The 45 officers who became the Landfill Search Unit over the 33 days it took to find the body were given a Distinguished Unit Citation award.

In addition, the department's three public information officers who conducted countless hours of interviews with media outlets from around the world during the investigation were presented with a Meritorious Unit Citation.

It was one of two awards detective Kevin Joiner, one of the three PIOs, received. Joiner was also awarded the Police Star for jumping into the Jordan River April 17 and saving a boy from drowning.


E-mail: preavy@desnews.com