by Debra Opri – Attorney and Legal Analyst

To the outside world, Laci Peterson had it all. Even her parents did not suspect that her daughter was married to a liar and cheat, and perhaps, a murderer. And so it is, again, that, to the outside world, another marriage yields yet another murder. Lori Hacking had it all, or so she thought. She was married to a future doctor and facing a new life in North Carolina. Her husband, Mark Hacking, seemingly, adored her. She, and Laci Peterson, both believed they had a wonderful future ahead for themselves and their husbands. For both of these two women, and countless others, who have not risen to the level of celebrity the media randomly anoints, as in their cases, both of these women are now dead. And to the world, their husbands are the prime murder suspects.

As a criminal defense attorney, it no longer surprises me that the old adage, the butler did it, no longer applies, but that the older adage for us common folk…. “it must have been the husband,” is applying more often than not lately. And, no matter what we, as criminal defense attorneys will push through the common sense logic of the jury at time of trial, concerning the indefensible incompetence and misconduct of the investigating officers, all of us, seemingly, keep returning to the same overtly evident opinion: if it wasn’t the husband, then who?

With the most recent death of Lori Hacking, I have had cause to seriously consider the sanctity of the marriage relationship and what, if anything, could possibly happen in that relationship to cause someone to cross that line of reason and societal norm and to kill the one person who has chosen to share their life with them. I think of our society and what we have all become in our quest for the fantasy life of self gratification and selfishness.

I have compared the murder cases of Scott & Laci Peterson and Mark & Lori Hacking. I found these comparisons: both husbands were convinced, for whatever reason, that lying about who they were was going to secure the admiration and love of their women. In Scott’s instance, there were many women, the last being Amber Frey. In Mark’s case, it was his wife’s. Scott’s stories varied. He was the successful businessman who was traveling through Europe when he spoke to Amber. A widower with no children. Mark’s story surrounded his ineptness in an education. His story was that he was a college graduate who had been accepted to medical school, thereby necessitating his and his wife’s move to North Carolina. Both stories were lies. Scott placed a lot of emphasis on keeping his family and in laws in the dark about his personal life. Mark did the same. No one knew their real sides. Not even their wives.

And so what does this tell us about the person we think enough about to marry? Do we really think ‘enough’ about them? Enough to check out who they are? Enough to do a background check on the smallest of facts, beginning with are they who they tell us they are?

Getting back to the butler as being the one who usually was the one who was accused of the murder in crime stories of yore, it’s safe to say that there was a time and societal norm that you didn’t let anyone in your home until and unless they were ‘checked out.’ In the leading families today, where titles, and money and family lineage still matter, it’s a safe bet that a father’s daughter will not marry someone who is not checked out….. whether daddy’s daughter is aware of it or not.

But this much is true. There is a common sense approach taken by what many label ‘upper society.’ It really does not make sense to take such an important step without knowing something of the person you’re welcoming into your home and family.

I have had good cause to come to a decision wherein it should be requisite for every family to search the background of the ‘new’ family member: In my first year of law school, I remembered receiving a telephone call from one of my brothers. He told me that our Aunt Julia, was found murdered and dismembered in her home. Her longtime boyfriend had done it. He had confessed to beating her to death while she slept and of systematically disposing of her in bits and pieces so as not to be detected. He was caught when someone found one of her limbs in the trash… two weeks after the murder. When asked ‘why’ he had done it, he told the police he couldn’t afford her anymore… that she was sick and a bother. This man had been living with our Aunt Julia for over 14 years. It was only after her death that we learned of his history of mental instability. None of us knew…. probably, not even Aunt Julia.
Almost twenty years after her death, I think of Laci and Lori. I think of all the others who we don’t know about, and I think of the lesser news reports of scam spouses who stalk their prey for financial gain. Men who marry women, clean them out, and then move on to the next victim.

What do we learn from these deaths? We learn what countless others did not have the chance to do…. check out the person you’re going to spend your life with. What a small investment, really. Had Lori or Laci, or my Aunt Julia only done it, they may still be alive.

From the courtroom to your living room, this has been another edition of THE OPRI OPINION.