Fugitive Darren Mack Charged With Murder

By: Terri Russell/AP
By: Terri Russell/AP

A Reno pawn shop owner has been charged with murder
in his estranged wife's killing and is being sought for questioning
in the sniper shooting of a judge who was involved with his divorce
case, police confirmed Tuesday.
Police launched a manhunt for Darren Roy Mack after Family Court
Judge Chuck Weller was shot Monday in the chest by a sniper through
the window of his third floor office in the Washoe County
courthouse complex.
Weller, 53, who in past years gave legal advice on a local radio
station and in a column in the Reno Gazette-Journal, was rushed to
a hospital where he was reported in good condition.
Police shut down a six-block area near the downtown casino
district and SWAT teams searched parking garages, high-rise
construction sites and a neighboring movie theater.
Flights were suspended for about an hour at Reno-Tahoe
International Airport late Monday night and some planes were
searched after a police SWAT team responded to a reported sighting
of Mack's sports utility vehicle at an airport parking garage, but
it turned out to be a false alarm, authorities said.
"The lead was strong enough that police responded with a large
group of officers," airport spokesman Brian Kulpin told The
Associated Press. "The entire airport was searched and will
continue to be searched. We're in a hyper state of vigilance."
Mack, 45, is wanted for the killing of his estranged wife,
Charla Mack, 39, whose body was found in the garage of her
apartment, and he is a "person of interest" in the shooting at
the courthouse, Reno Deputy Police Chief Jim Johns said Tuesday.
The killing at the apartment and the courthouse shooting
apparently happened within hours of each other, although Johns said
it was unknown which occurred first.
Darren Mack "had recent dealings with the judge and the family
court section" in his divorce, Johns said, calling it "an obvious
connection." But he said police "do not have enough information
to say he is a suspect" in Weller's shooting.
According to Washoe County District Court records, Charla Mack
filed for divorce on Feb. 7, 2005. A two-day custody hearing was
scheduled before Weller for Sept. 7 of this year and a mutual
restraining order was signed in May 2005, according to court
records.
An attorney who has been involved in Mack's divorce case, who
asked not to be named because of personal safety concerns, told AP
that the couple's divorce proceeding was "a very, very heated and
emotional case."
Weller was shot in the chest "at least once" by a "high
velocity projectile, possibly a rifle," Johns said. His condition
had improved Tuesday and he was in good spirits, the chief said.
Weller's administrative assistant, Annie Allison, was hit by
bullet fragments in her arm and hip, but her wounds were
superficial, and she was treated and released, police spokesman
Steve Frady said.
Mack is the owner of a Reno jewelry store and pawn shop within a
few blocks from the courthouse. Mack's photograph, along with his
wife and three children, appears on a Web site advertising the sale
of diamonds and other jewelry.
On the Web site, he wrote: "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 45
years."
Johns said the children were unharmed.
Weller, a lawyer who graduated from Georgetown University Law
School in 1977, was elected to the bench in 2004. "He's a nice guy
and real hardworking," said Reno Justice of the Peace Harold
Albright.
Court officials said the shooting could be the result of someone
unhappy with a ruling in a child custody case, and a survey of
Internet Web sites shows many postings by people unhappy with
Weller and his family court decisions.
"The incident is shocking, but the risk is not shocking," said
Darin Conforti, court administrator of Reno Justice Court. "We're
well aware this is the inherent risk of trying to solve conflicts.
Sometimes you don't solve them peacefully and people take the law
into their own hands."
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Associated Press writers Martin Griffith and Tom Gardner in
Reno, Brendan Riley in Carson City and Christina Almeida in Los
Angeles also contributed to this report.


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