05/02/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT
When the words finally came, they were awful to hear—even though the family had waited for them for nine long months. Mark Hacking stood in a packed Salt Lake City courtroom and announced, "I intentionally shot Lori Hacking in the head with a .22 rifle on July 19, 2004." The instant he finished, Lori's mother, Thelma Soares, burst into tears. Hearing Hacking's admission, said Lori's father, Eraldo Soares, "was just like a knife going through my heart."
And yet it was better than the alternative: going to trial. Mark Hacking's April 15 plea of guilty to first-degree murder means neither his nor Lori's family will have to relive Lori's gruesome murder last July 19, when Hacking, 29, killed his 27-year-old wife while she slept and threw her body in a Dumpster. Hacking will be sentenced to somewhere between six years and life in prison; a judge will determine the length of his sentence at a June 6 hearing, at which both families are expected to address the court. "He pleaded guilty to murder," says lead prosecutor Robert Stott. "We are looking for the life sentence."
Meanwhile Lori's family is looking for answers. Hacking—a psychiatric aide who killed his wife after she reportedly learned he lied about being admitted to medical school—did not offer an explanation at the April 15 hearing, but his lawyer Gilbert Athay promised details would emerge on June 6. Athay suggested a roofing accident some years ago—in which Hacking hit his head—caused brain trauma that contributed to his actions.
Thelma Soares will have to hear it for herself: She wants a face-to-face meeting with the man who killed her daughter. "A lot of questions have never been addressed that I need to ask Mark about," she says. "I want to know why he did this. He will have to tell me that."