OREM — Spotting Salt Lake City Police Sgt. J.R. Nelson among the line of police officers that flanked the grave site of Lori Kay Soares Hacking, her mother reached out and clasped the burly, red-moustached officer in a hug.

"Thank you," Thelma Soares said through her tears.

Nelson is the officer credited with finding Hacking's remains in a west Salt Lake landfill Oct. 1. It was something Soares had prayed and fasted for since her daughter was first reported missing July 19.

Lori Hacking's remains were buried Saturday morning in a private ceremony at the Orem City Cemetery.

Prosecutors say her husband, Mark Hacking, shot and killed his wife as she slept after the 27-year-old stockbroker's assistant had learned her husband lied about his acceptance to medical school.

Mark Hacking, 28, who is charged with first-degree felony murder in connection with his wife's death, has allegedly confessed the killing to his brothers, telling them he shot Lori with a .22 caliber rifle and then left her body in a Dumpster near the University of Utah. He is in the Salt Lake County Jail on $1 million bail. An arraignment on the charges is scheduled for Oct. 29.

Salt Lake City police spent more than 30 days sifting through some 4,600 tons of garbage looking for Lori's remains — first with cadaver dogs and later by officers with pitchforks.

"When I pulled this pile apart . . . it was a millisecond when it went from being another bag of barbershop hair to possibly a wig to definitely human remains," an emotional Nelson said after the ceremony Saturday. "It was overwhelming, the relief . . . to be able to find her and to bring the closure to this family.

"And relief for the officers, " Nelson continued. "That morning, I can tell you I didn't know if I could last another week out there. I was physically and emotionally drained going through the debris."

All of the officers who participated in the search were praised as heroes during the graveside ceremony by Paul Soares, Lori's elder brother.

"You dedicated and brave officers who performed your terrible task without ever giving up day after day after day," Paul Soares said, reading from a written statement. "How can we possibly thank you for giving us this sacred gift?"

The Soares family presented each officer with a poem about Lori written by her high school friends, which Paul Soares said was a way for the family to introduce Lori more personally.

It was clear from the tears on the cheeks of searchers, however, that an emotional connection to Lori and her family already had been made. Perhaps, one officer said, it was because of the unusual and serious nature of the landfill mission.

"It all became quite personal, I think, to all of us," state Department of Public Safety investigator Vu Bowers said. "Especially to those of us with children. I have a 6-week-old daughter, and I understand the importance of finding (Lori)."

An earlier memorial service celebrating Lori Hacking's life was held by her family and friends on Aug. 14 in Orem. Her body had not been found at that time.

Saturday's grave site ceremony lasted less than an hour. It included two selections of recorded music and brief words of comfort from Windsor Stake President Scott Dunaway of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Eraldo Soares dedicated the grave, saying he was grateful that God "had given (Lori) to us for 27 years."

The Soares family also thanked the community at large, placing a banner near the grave that read: "Lori's home. Your prayers are answered."

At the close of the ceremony, each of the 60 or so people in attendance — family, police, Lori's friends from childhood, her college roommates, Wells Fargo co-workers and the Hacking family — silently filed past the silver-gray casket and placed long-stemmed red roses on its lid.

Afterward, Thelma Soares and Janet Hacking, Mark Hacking's mother, clasped each other tightly for a whispered exchange. Janet Hacking gently wiped tears from Thelma Soares' cheeks as they talked.

The moment underscored how closely the Hacking and Soares families have remained through the unfolding ordeal of the past 83 days.

In an interview with the Deseret Morning News in August, Thelma Soares said her love and respect for Janet and Douglas Hacking had not changed, nor does she blame them for their son's alleged actions. Her former husband, Eraldo Soares, has been equally steadfast, greeting the Hackings in court last month with warmth and hugs.

Saturday, however, Eraldo Soares showed a hint of bitterness, dropping the surname "Hacking" from his daughter's name as he dedicated her grave.

Nelson, who said he met Lori's family for the first time Saturday, brushed aside the idea that his role in the search was more important than that of others.

"I'm not the person that did it. It was a group effort. I couldn't have gotten through all of that material by myself," he said before breaking into tears. "Being here today, it made me really grateful for what we were able to do."


LORI

You are a small town girl with big city sophistication

You are California cool and Las Vegas excitement

But also, Washington, D.C., intellect and New York chic

You are summer flip flops, bright, vibrant colors and basking in the sun

You are spring with great ideas constantly blooming in your head

You are gorgeous smile radiating warmth on a cold winter's day

You are autumn never afraid to change or to try something new

You are birthday celebrations at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Trolley Square

You are KBER-101 music and a concert in Park City

You are Diet Cokes at Will's Pit Stop, extra large of course

You are cruising around town in your blue bug sporting

"Daddy bought it but I got it"

You are rollerblading trips up the canyon

You are long conversations on the phone and weekend sleep-overs

You are Training Table cheese fries, Wendy's Frostys, and Stan's shakes

You are V-neck T-shirts and reverse fit jeans

You are shopping sprees at Lerners always sporting the latest fashions

You are hoop earrings and silver necklaces of every sort

You are hair straightening for hours at a time

You are larger than life personality bounding from a petite frame

You are the host and the life of the party always good for a laugh

You are teenage girl fights . . . not always sure of the reason

You are a roll of the eyes . . . which tells so much

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You are balanced checkbook and a carefully organized closet

You are goals to be set . . . then achieved

You are beautiful in every way

You are excellence and perfection, outspoken and determined, feisty and fun

You are a friend to all

You are unconditional love . . . a best friend who is always there

We will always love you, Lori. We are blessed and grateful to be your friends,

Forever

This poem, written by friends of Lori Kay Soares Hacking, was presented to police officers attending her burial Saturday.


E-mail: jdobner@desnews.com