In one of the nation’s most prominent current missing persons cases, Salt Lake City police arrested Mark Hacking yesterday on suspicion of murdering his wife, Lori, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. Filing a murder charge without a body is “a very rare circumstance,” prosecutor Robert Stott said. “But, yes, legally it can be done and it’s been done before.” A proposed capital charge could be based in part on information that Lori Hacking was five weeks pregnant. The alleged killing of two victims is one aggravating factor that can transform a murder prosecution into a capital case. The lack of a body could generate doubts in the minds of jurors, said Salt Lake defense attorney Stephen McCaughey, who is not involved in the case.
Hacking apparently surrendered to police at University Hospital, where he had spent 13 days on a psychiatric unit. Experts said it is unlikely a claim of mental illness will keep him out of court or provide him with a complete defense. Salt Lake City defense attorney Mark Moffat said that proving someone is mentally incompetent to stand trial is difficult. “To be declared incompetent, you have to be extremely mentally ill,” Moffat said. A defendant can also claim to have been insane when a crime was committed. But Utah has the most restrictive definition of insanity in the nation, Moffat said. Defense attorneys would have to prove Hacking was so mentally ill that he did not know he was taking a human life, Moffat said – a definition adopted in 1983 in response to the shooting of President Reagan.