'Lori's Law' Could Increase Minimum Term for Murder

'Lori's Law' Could Increase Minimum Term for Murder

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- After hearing from the father of murder victim Lori Hacking, the Utah Sentencing Commission has recommend increasing Utah's minimum sentence for first-degree felony murder from five years to 15.

"Someday in the future, your daughter might be spared because her husband might think twice," Eraldo Soares told the commission Wednesday. "I'm looking out for your daughters."

Soares, who has been lobbying for the proposed legislation, which has been dubbed "Lori's Law," said he wanted to save future families from the shock he received when he heard that his daughter's husband and killer, Mark Hacking, could possibly be paroled as early as in his sixth year.

"I thought it was horrible," Soares said. "I felt it was insulting."

Capital homicide is punishable in Utah by execution or life in prison, with or without the possibility of parole.

The lesser offense of first-degree felony murder is -- like all first-degree felonies -- punishable by an indeterminate term of five years to life in prison, with the parole board deciding how long the offender serves.

In the case of Mark Hacking, who was sentenced to an additional year for use of a firearm in a crime, the state Board of Pardons and Parole announced in July that he will spend at least 30 years in prison before it considers him for release.

Soares said that with the thousands of people who searched for his daughter, he felt he owed a debt to the people of Utah to give them peace of mind.

Members of the commission said public peace of mind was the major reason for their recommendation to raise the minimum mandatory to 15 years for murder.

Paul Boyden, executive director of the Statewide Association of Prosecutors, said the Utah Sentencing Commission received e-mails from people from all over the country, outraged at the news of a six-year mandatory sentence for Hacking.

Boyden said there was no real possibility that Hacking would be released that soon by the parole board. But due to the public's lack of knowledge of how the system works, it appeared that way.

Boyden said that going above 15 years could discourage murder suspects from accepting plea deals -- as Hacking did.

Soares said he wanted to seek a 30-year mandatory minimum but decided to agree to 15 after hearing Boyden's concerns.

One commission member voted against recommending the 15-year minimum mandatory sentence. John Hill, director for the Salt Lake Legal Defenders Association, said outside the meeting that he felt the penalty was too high and took away too much discretion from the parole board to weigh circumstances on a case-by-case basis.

Hill said the worst crimes, such as Hacking's, should not define lesser cases.

Soares also asked the commission to pass a two- or three-year extra enhancement for those who murder their spouses. He said he wanted to prevent another Mark Hacking from happening.

Commission members said there needed to be additional discussion about separating a married spouse from other positions of trust in the law, such as a Scoutmaster, day-care provider or sibling.

Mark Hacking confessed that he shot his wife in the head with a .22-caliber rifle while she slept at their Salt Lake City apartment in July 2004.

She apparently had confronted him about his web of lies. Contrary to what Hacking had told his wife and family, he had not graduated from college and had not been accepted to medical school in North Carolina.

Hacking disposed of Lori's body in a trash bin, then told police she had gone jogging up City Creek Canyon, prompting the massive search of the foothills.

In July 24, Hacking confessed to his brothers that he had murdered his wife. Her remains were found after a two-month search of the Salt Lake County landfill.

Soares said he has not heard from Hacking since he was sent to prison in June.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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