MARK HOFMANN left the hospital in early November. He was confined to a wheelchair from the knee injury, but the doctors predicted he would walk again soon. Hofmann said nothing publicly and declined to speak with reporters.
He had been identified as the police department's chief suspect, but no murder charges had been filed. Many of Hofmann's clients and associates refused to believe he was the killer. His attorneys began to challenge the county attorneys to either file charges or admit they were wrong.
Some friends said they fully expected Hofmann to produce the McLellin Collection now that he was home from the hospital. He might have to wait for the appropriate legal opportunity, they said, but he would produce it. One of those was Lyn Jacobs, a theological historian who had helped Hofmann arrange the sale of the Salamander Letter. When asked about the McLellin Collection in an interview, Jacobs said, "I have no reason to doubt the collection exists as Mark has described it."
Warming to the subject, Jacobs continued, "Mark Hofmann is not a forger. I don't think he even knows how. I have never heard a negative statement concerning Mark's integrity from any archivist or professional. If he were a forger, how could he have gone so long without a single slip?"
IT WAS DURING THIS TIME that Gerry D'Elia would wake up with nightmares. D'Elia was a deputy county attorney; for two months he had been on the case. At night he would dream about Mark Hofmann, dream about the murders and then wake up suddenly, unable to sleep again. On those nights he hated the Mormons, hated their documents. He would stare into the darkness and swear he was leaving Utah.
D'Elia didn't leave. He went to the office instead. As often as not, there would be others there, and still others in the police department across the way. The bombing case had become a collective obsession; no one ever seemed to go home. Detectives would work for 20 hours straight and curl up to sleep under a table. Once Police Chief E. L. Willoughby walked into his office and found a half-dozen detectives snoozing on the floor. The chief offered to move out so the detectives could use his room as a dorm.
For D'Elia and many others, the obsession stemmed from wounded pride. "No one believed we were sharp; they thought we were just the local boys about to screw up a big case," he says. "Mainly, they believed we were wrong about Hofmann. So we wanted to be right."
All D'Elia's instincts told him Hofmann was the man. The other leads had turned into blind alleys; the other suspects had faded.
But, by early December, D'Elia still needed to establish a connection between Hofmann and the pipe bombs; there wasn't enough evidence yet to convince a jury. Explosives experts had learned that the bombs had been filled with black powder and triggered by mercury switches. Several weeks earlier an investigator had walked into the police department and dropped the switches and connectors on a desk. Here are the bomb parts, he said; they were bought at Radio Shack. That was fine, D'Elia thought. But how could they prove that Hofmann bought those same parts at a Radio Shack?
They quickly discovered that Radio Shack uses an elaborate receipt system. Every customer, whether cash or charge, is asked to fill out a form that includes his name and address. D'Elia figured that Hofmann used an alias. During a search of Hofmann's house the detectives had found an envelope that contained the name "Mike Hansen." In the wild hope that Hofmann had used the same name at Radio Shack, the investigators began sifting through receipts.
There were tens of thousands of receipts. There were Radio Shacks all over the Salt Lake valley. Nothing was computerized; every receipt was a separate piece of paper. One by one, they started. Detectives would finish lunch early and run over to the closest Radio Shack to whip through a couple thousand receipts. A squad of rookies at the police department was assigned to full-time Radio Shack duty. It was like counting the corn kernels in a grain silo.
Days passed; the search turned up nothing. Then one Saturday a rookie volunteered to re-scan several boxes of receipts; one of the detectives had a hunch about this batch. And there it was: a Mike Hansen receipt. For mercury switches.
The receipt did not prove Mike Hansen was Mark Hofmann. It did not prove that the mercury switches were put into a bomb. But a corner had been turned.
AT THE CHURCH archives, the discovery of the cracked ink had left Flynn and Throckmorton first excited, and then puzzled. Instinct told them that the cracking was a sign of forgery, but they weren't certain. What if it was a coincidence? Somehow they had to discover how the cracking got there, and what it meant.