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Dangerous Lies

Murder to cover up deception, used with permission
Source:, used with permission

Lori Hacking seemed to be at a high point in her life.  She and her husband, Mark, were happily married.   She had just found out she was pregnant with their first child.  They were packing up to move to Chapel Hill, North Carolina so Mark could start medical school.  So, when she went missing on July 19, 2004, family and friends rallied around Mark, engaged in a massive search, and reminded themselves that Elizabeth Smart, a Utah teen who had been missing for nine months, had been recovered alive and well.  So, too, might Lori.

Varkha Rani, on the other hand, was struggling.  The twenty-four-year-old bride had met Jasvar Ginday through a matchmaker in India when he traveled to India to find a wife in October of 2012.  In August 2013, they moved to England, Ginday's home but - to Varkha - a place that was foreign and isolating.  A month later, she had vanished. In a missing person's report Jasvir Ginday filed with the police, he stated that he believed his wife had abandoned him after using him to relocate to the U.K.

On the surface, these two women had little in common.  In reality, they were both involved with men who were leading lives filled with deception and lies.  And, when these women discovered them, and made it clear those lies would be exposed, they were murdered.  

Living A Double Life

Mark Hacking's whole life was a lie.  Not only was Mark lying about his acceptance to medical school, he had actually dropped out of college.  Both his wife and parents thought he had recently graduated from the University of Utah; his mother in law even helped him with "term papers" and stored some of his "college textbooks" in her garage. On, July 15, 2004, Lori received a call from the University of North Carolina informing her that Mark had never applied to medical school.  By July 19, she was dead.

Jasvir Ginday's big secret was his sexual orientation.  Although he had realized he was gay at age 12, he continued to pretend to be heterosexual to his family and his fiance.  At the same time an elaborate wedding was being planned, he was frequenting gay bars and having relationships with men. The impetus for the murder, according to prosecutors, was Vickra's discovery of her new husband's secret during which she informed him that she wanted a divorce and would not participate in his deception.  

A Secret Worth Killing For?

Interestingly, both Mark Hacking and Jasvir Ginday cited their fears of their family discovering the truth as a major motivator for both the lies and the murders.  Raised by a highly successful family (father is a pediatrician, one brother is a doctor and the other is an electrical engineer), Mark Hacking reportedly felt a significant amount of pressure to excel academically. Jasvir Ginday talked at length about the shame his homosexuality would bring to his family and his inability to tell them the truth.

Most of us can relate to the fear of rejection, shame or embarrassment that led them to the initial deception and - perhaps - the rationalizations that went with it.  I'll make up those classes later and they'll never find out I dropped these.  If I get married, I can protect my parents and live the life I want to.  As long as no one finds out, everything is okay.

Small lies become big lies.  More lies are told to cover up the ones already told. The untruths become easier over time; perhaps Mark Hacking and Jasvir Ginday discovered an unexpected sense of power and control by choosing what to tell others.  At some point, a secret became a secret life. And the more energy invested in the charade, the greater commitment to maintaining it.    

Clues to a Secret Closet?

When the Mark Hacking case broke in the U.S., there were numerous discussions about what Lori Hacking knew.  Surely, she must have caught him in lies before. Surely, his close-knit family had sensed that Mark was more distant, more secretive, more evasive.  Surely, surely there were clues that all was not as it seemed.  

We all want to believe this.  If we can look back and find warning signs that were missed, we can be sure this will never happen to us.  We will be smarter, more vigilant, more skeptical.  

I have some bad news; if a liar is good enough, any of us can be fooled. As Hacking’s close friend, Ross Williams, said “I’ve been a cop for seven years, and he didn’t arouse a single suspicion in me,” Ross had known Hacking  since preschool and is now a state probation and parole officer. “He had me 100 percent.” 

If Lori and Vikhra missed any clues, it wasn't about the deception itself.  It was in not recognizing the deadly lengths to which each of these men were willing to go to continue it.  If only Lori had told her parents what she had found out first, or if Vikhra had left her husband without letting him know of her discovery.

The Bottom Line

It's not hard to fool someone who loves you.  Secrets are not hard to keep; lies aren't hard to tell.  However, when secrets lead to a secret life, deception has taken on a life of its own.  Lying becomes second nature as does the investment in keeping the lies from being exposed.  

Most of us could not lead a double life for long.  In fact, I think that the ability to lead a life of deception for a long period of time requires a certain narcissism and lack of empathy that is outside the range of what most of us possess.  Those personality traits offer clues that warn us not to underestimate the deceiver should we stumble upon the truth.