Darren Mack was described to have a "weird look," and his hand was wrapped in a towel as he rushed upstairs behind am blood-spattered dog from the garage of his town house the morning his estranged wife was stabbed to death, a friend testified Thursday.
"A weird, scared kind of look," said friend and housemate, Daniel Osborne.
Mack is accused of stabbing Charla Mack to death in the garage and minutes later wounding the judge who handled their divorce with a shot fired from a parking structure near the courthouse in downtown Reno.
Osborne said he and Mack's 8-year-old daughter were watching television when they heard what he described as "kind of a faint yelping sound" downstairs. That was when the dog appeared at the
top of the stairs, followed by Mack.
"Did he say, 'My wife just attacked me?"' prosecutor Robert Daskas asked.
"No," Osborne responded.
"Did he say, 'My wife tried to shoot me?"'
Mack had no visible marks on his body, Osborne said, and the dog turned was uninjured. Charla Mack, 39, was found later by authorities with her throat slashed and several of what a forensic pathologist said appeared to be defensive knife wounds.
Osborne said he and Mack's daughter never looked in the garage after the girl noticed the blood on Osborne's dog. Instead, he said, he took the child from the town house and headed for Mack's mother's house.
Under questioning by defense lawyer Scott Freeman, Osborne said he didn't feel endangered by Mack, who he said didn't acknowledge his presence or the presence of his daughter.
"Fair to say trance-like in some ways?" Freeman asked. "That's probably a good description," Osborne said.
Mack's defense lawyers say Charla Mack attacked Darren Mack and
pointed a gun at him before he killed her in self-defense. Then they say Mack became delusional and shot Family Court Judge Chuck Weller sniper-style as he stood in his chambers. Weller has since recovered.
Prosecutors used testimony from Osborne and Garret Idle, a self-described "teammate" with Mack in a father's rights advocacy group, to portray the attacks as a premeditated plot to end a contentious divorce and send a message to a legal system that he believed had wronged him.
Idle was blunt with his disdain for Weller. He said his first act after hearing Weller had been shot was to call Mack, with whom he said he shared views about Weller being unfair and the Family Court system as "dysfunctional" and needing "to be torn down."
"We were both teammates trying to tackle a very important issue," Idle said.
Mack "told me that he was really busy and that he would call me back," Idle said.
"Do you consider yourself delusional?" prosecutor Christopher Lalli asked.
"I don't think so," Idle said.
Mack, 46, a pawnshop businessman, is charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder in the June 2006 slaying and shooting.
He has pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. He could face life in prison if convicted.
The case made headlines and led to a manhunt after Mack fled to Mexico, where he surrendered 11 days later. The trial was moved to
Las Vegas from Reno this month after state Judge Douglas Herndon ruled that an impartial jury could not be found.
The trial resumes Monday.
Prior to today's events, KOLO-8's Terri Russell blogged about the trial so far
"Before opening arguments in the trial, defendant Darren Mack was asked by Judge Doug Herndon that he had been advised by his counsel he could change his plea to guilty by reason of insanity for both the murder and attempted murder charges. Did he want to do that? Mack standing before the judge thought for a moment and whispered to his attorney Scott Freeman. He responded to the judge that he would go against his attorney's advice and stick with his original plea. Not guilty in the murder of Charla Mack--self defense. Not guilty by reason of insanity--shooting Judge Weller.
Just 24 days ago Governor Jim Gibbons signed a new Nevada law setting new guidelines for the not guilty by insanity plea. It is based in part on a case out of Las Vegas where the defendant was acquitted for killing a man while that defendant was high on LSD.
Keep that in mind during the course of this trail.
Opening arguments produced some information not seen or heard before. A video tape of Darren Mack speaking before a group of fathers who felt they have been abused by the family court system. Mack compares his efforts to speak out against the system to those of the patriots against the British in 1776. Prosecutor Robert Daskas told the court this was more of an outrage against someone (Charla) trying to take some of his estimated 10 million dollar a year income rather than a corrupt court system.
The defense used the same tape to show how mentally ill their client really was. David Chesnoff told the jury, "My client thought he was Benjamin Franklin." Attorney Scott Freeman spent time talking about Charla as the aggressor in the marriage and relationship. She verbally abused him. She physically hit him. Freeman says he took martial arts and was fit. She was the one who had sex with both men and women. She was the one that allowed Darren to take part. Darren, Freeman says, wanted an exclusive relationship but went along with Charla's desires. They both took X to enhance their sex lives. On June 12 Freeman says Charla jumped Mack in his condo's garage and was able to get a concealed gun he had on him. Freeman says she shot but missed. They physically fought, on the ground, she tried to pull a knife from Darren's belt, he grabbed it and stabbed her in the neck to defend himself. With a rubber band as a visual aid, Freeman says Darren Mack snapped.
Chesnoff took over the opening arguments from there. He told the jury they had all said during voire dire they would listen to psychological experts. That they must listen to expert testimony presented to them. He said Darren suffered delusion disorder--brought on by excessive X use.
Distraught by his failing marriage the court system's ruling he was convinced everyone involved in those areas of his life was conspiring against him. All untrue Chesnoff said, but Darren Mack believed it. Chesnoff says at the time Mack believed he was spiritually ordained to rage against the injustices of a system that was corrupt. And Judge Weller represented that system Chesnoff said, that's why he shot him.
MACK 101: Just before opening arguments a group of judges from Russia came in and sat down in the back of the courtroom. They were visiting to watch American jurisprudence first hand. In broken English they asked "where is Reno?" I asked the interpreter if she wanted me to explain to them a little bit about the case. Once I finish one of the judges asked, "Why did he shoot the judge?" Because he was handling the defendant's divorce. The group listened to jury instructions, the prosecution, and then left."