Mack Gets Life Term for Killing Wife
A former pawn shop owner was sentenced to life in prison on Friday for the killing of his estranged wife and shooting of the judge who handled their bitter divorce.
Darren Mack, 46, will be eligible for parole after 36 years. Mack pleaded guilty in November to first-degree murder in the June 2006 stabbing death of his wife, Charla, and entered an Alford plea to a charge of attempted murder of Washoe Family Court Judge Chuck Weller.
Mack admitted in court that he shot Weller through a courthouse window the day he killed his wife but invoked the Alford plea, in which a defendant acknowledges there is enough evidence for a conviction without admitting guilt. Weller has recovered from his wounds.
District Judge Douglas Herndon followed the recommendations of a plea deal by sentencing Mack to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years on the murder charge.
The judge upheld the recommendation of Special Prosecutor Christopher Lalli by sentencing Mack to 40 years with parole possible after 16 years for attempted murder with a deadly weapon.
The terms are to run consecutively.
In handing down the sentence, Herndon cited the heinous nature of the crimes and Mack's lack of remorse.
"The truth is Mr. Mack is guilty of these crimes, but he doesn't want to hear anything about that," the judge said.
Mack on Thursday reiterated claims that he acted in self defense when he slashed his wife's throat in the garage of his southeast Reno townhouse.
He also has argued that he was coerced by his former lawyers into the plea deal, and suggested the attorneys, prosecutors, investigators and law enforcement officers who investigated the case were corrupt.
Herndon said while he allowed Mack to go on at length, he never said what the judge hoped he'd hear: "I'm sorry."
48 Hours Reviews the Darren Mack Case (click here)
EOPC on the original story in 2006:
Online Dater, Alleged Murderer and Sniper Shooter
"There is a potential that Mr. Mack could contact and meet with someone related to a past contact," said Lt. Ron Donnelly.
Anyone Mack may have contacted via an online dating site should contact police.
Mack, 45, was charged Tuesday in a warrant with the stabbing death of his estranged wife, Charla, 39. Police also accuse Mack of setting up on a downtown building and firing a sniper shot into the chambers of Family Court Judge Chuck Weller, hitting him in the chest.
For several years Mack has been an owner of Palace Jewelry and Loan pawn shop, which has an inventory that includes firearms.
Police say Mack has a federal firearms license, and a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Both will be suspended due to his fugitive status, but police believe he has access to any type of firearm.
Mack owns and has access to a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle, which police believe was used in the sniper shooting. This weapon has not been accounted for and may be in his possession.
Mack's Silver Colored Ford Explorer with California License Plates 5POR272 has still not been located, and is listed nationally on a law enforcement fugitive database.
At a 9 a.m. press conference, Reno police announced the murder victim found at the Fleur de Lis gated community on Wilbur May Parkway has been identified as 39-year old Charla Mack, Darren Mack's estranged wife.
The 53-year-old Judge Weller continues to recover at Washoe Medical Center in Reno. Reno police say Weller is in good condition. Police said he was alert and had spoken with his family following the shooting.
Police say suspected killer Darren Mack is still at large. He is wanted for homicide after the discovery of his wife's body at the Fleur de Lis gated community, and is a suspect in the shooting of Judge Weller.
A Chaotic Scene
The events began Monday morning at 11:15, when police received reports of shots fired in the area of the newly-opened Mills B. Lane Justice Center on High Street. A News 4 crew was in the area and witnessed a chaotic scene as people ran from the building and frantically made calls on their cell phones.
"I hid behind a pillar and everything was starting to go crazy all over the place," an unidentified witness told News 4. "Cops were running all over the place."
"We were walking downtown near the building and we heard a gun," said Raya Pyles. "We all just ducked."
Craig Compton told News 4 he heard two gunshots followed by chaos inside the Justice Center.
"We were getting in an elevator, and people started scattering up there on the third floor," Compton said. "A deputy got in front of us and somebody said 'someone got shot. We heard a pop.'"
Washoe County Undersheriff Mike Haley said Reno Family Court Judge Chuck Weller was standing near a window on the third floor when he was shot in the torso. An aide, Annie Allison of Reno, was injured by flying glass.
"We're certain the shot came from outside," Haley said. "We can't speculate now where it came from. We have to establish the height of the window. It could have come from a variety of locations to the north."
One witness reported seeing an armed man in a nearby parking garage at the time of the shooting. Authorities are still investigating the structure.
Dozens of people were evacuated from the Justice Center as police charged into the building. Others were locked down for more than five hours. Streets surrounding the Justice Center did not reopen until late Monday night.
Police Investigate Related Murder
Just hours after the shooting, detectives responded to the Fleur de Lis community in south Reno on a report of a person found dead. The body was found in the garage of one of the townhomes.
The Press reports the home where the body was found is the residence of 39-year-old Charla Mack, the estranged wife of Darren Mack.
Following notification of family, police have confirmed the body was indeed that of Charla Mack.
Police say Darren and Charla Mack were to appear before Judge Weller September 8 as part of their pending divorce case.
Court documents obtained by News 4 show Darren Mack and his wife had been in and out of court several times since February 2005 as part of their divorce proceedings. At stake was custody of the couple's three children, and more than $10,000 a month in child and spousal support. Records also show Charla Mack's attorney had filed a motion to hold Darren Mack in contempt of court and asked that he be ordered to comply with child support requirements.
Darren Mack owns Palace Jewelry and Loan in Reno. Records show Mack had just declared bankruptcy. An employee at the business declined comment Monday.
Mack had a profile for his family on his eBay Web site, which was taken down late Monday. The Web page contained photos of Mack and his family, and information on his business. Before the site was removed, it contained this statement:
"My name is Darren Mack, and I am the third generation owner of a small business in Reno, Nevada. My family has owned and operated small businesses in Nevada for 45years. I am proud of the fact that I am able to carry on the legacy left to me by my parents and grandparents. I've been around jewelry and diamonds since my dad brought me down to the store when I was 7 years old. I have a personal commitment to excellence in any endeavor I take on. I am bringing to eBay a business ethic which is unshakeable. I deal fairly, with concern to the needs of my customers, and always with integrity. And, as you can see, I am married to a lovely young lady and have three beautiful children."
Search Delays Flights at Airport
The intensive manhunt for Darren Mack caused delays at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport Monday night. At 8:30, police received a report of a possible sighting of Mack at the airport. They shut down the parking garage and underwent a car-by-car search. Heavily-armed officers could be seen questioning drivers and passengers with guns ready. Airport spokesman Brian Kulpin said Federal agents and airport police also searched flights that had not yet taken off from the airport.
"Flights were held for some time this evening, just to make sure this suspect somehow didn't make it past security checkpoints," Kulpin said. "There are a lot of procedures put in place so that doesn't happen. But in a case with this profile, we wanted to make sure we're covering all the airport... So we did hold flights at gates. There were even some aircraft that came back to gates and were searched."
Kulpin said no arrests were made at the airport Monday night. He said all airport security personnel had been given fliers with Mack's photo and description, and were asked to keep an eye out for him.
Mike Simpson, a Southwest Airlines passenger, told News 4 police quickly escorted everyone off of his flight, which had just landed.
"People immediately got on their cell phones," Simpson said. "I was one of them. We all wanted to know - I called a friend of mine who works for a radio station to see if he knew anything, and pretty much everybody said it was all word of mouth - 'They got the sniper' and all that kind of an aspect."
Earlier, the search for Mack led Sheriff's deputies to surround a home on Chipmunk Avenue in Washoe Valley. Authorities had received a tip Mack may be inside the home. Deputies searched the house but did not find Mack.
Forty-five-year-old Darren Mack is white with brown hair and brown eyes. He is five feet, eleven inches tall and between 190 and 220 pounds. He may be driving a silver Ford SUV, possibly an Explorer.
Police say he is to be considered armed and dangerous.