Police were wading through hundreds of tips Friday as they searched for a wealthy Reno pawn shop owner charged with killing his estranged wife and accused of the sniper shooting of the judge handling their divorce.
Detectives working in 24-hour shifts have been assisted by the
FBI since a federal warrant was issued for Darren Mack of Reno on
Thursday, Reno Police Lt. Ron Donnelly said.
Investigators were following "hundreds and hundreds of Secret
Witness reports from Des Moines to Miami into the wee hours of the
morning," he said. "One of these tips is going to be a good
Authorities have searched for Mack since Monday when a sniper
shot and wounded Washoe County Family Court Judge Chuck Weller, who
was standing in his chambers. Mack, 45, was charged the next day
with murder in the stabbing death of Charla Mack, 39.
"I heard the shattering of glass, then I heard a thump and ...
a scream," said Judge Charles McGee, who was the first to reach
Weller from his office next door.
"The bailiffs came in with guns drawn and basically threw me
down on the floor. Then we all crawled down and met Judge Weller,
who for some reason had stood back up and was demanding a cell
phone so he could call his wife and get her out of the house. He
was the calmest person there," McGee told reporters at a news
conference Friday. Weller later provided paramedics with Mack's
"It appears to have been a very methodical, thought-out series
of events," said Jim Denton, a spokesman for Weller, who indicated
he had spoken with investigators.
Weller, who was being treated Friday at an undisclosed location
under guard, had been warned in a call from a member of a father's
advocacy group weeks ago that "an angry man" named Darren Mack
was launching a campaign to ruin Weller's career, in part through
anonymous Internet blogs, Denton said.
McGee said threats are not uncommon for family court judges.
"We all have kind of a list of people that we think are a
little off their rocker," he said. "But I think Judge Weller is
one of the most fearless people I've seen. He's up there
identifying this guy within minutes of the shooting."
Mack's cousin, Jeffrey Donner, said he received a phone call
from Mack shortly after the shooting, saying, "'If anything
happens to me, please make sure that the true story about the
injustices that are going on in that courtroom get out to the media
and the public."'
Donner said his cousin had complained for the past year about
Weller, who was handling Mack's divorce case, and had said the
judge was biased and made decisions before he heard all the facts.
"He was just obsessed with bringing this judge down. Not
physically. I never heard anything like that, but by reputation,"
A custody hearing in the Macks' divorce case was scheduled
before Weller in September. Charla Mack filed for divorce in 2005,
and a mutual restraining order was signed the same year, according
to court records.
McGee said that 10 years ago he handled part of Mack's first
divorce, "which was also a donnybrook."
He said judge's are reluctant to share concerns about the
stability people with cases pending before them.
"It's kind of a lonely job. We're not supposed to even talk
with each other about it," McGee said.
"If I go in (and say) `This guy is a complete hot head, I think
he's going to go off' or something like that, it portrays a bias.
And so it's Russian Roulette."
On the other hand, McGee said he once ruled in a case with a man
he thought was "very calm" but later killed his girlfriend and
announced "he was on the way to Reno to kill me and his ex-wife"
before police cornered him and he committed suicide.
Mack, 45, was co-owner of a pawn shop in Reno until he turned
over control in 2005 to his mother, co-owner Joan Mack, a lawyer
for Palace Jewelry & Loan Co. Inc. said.
Mack earned more than $500,000 a year and had a net worth of
$9.4 million as recently as 2004, according to court documents.
Shawn Meador, Charla Mack's lawyer, said in a court filing that
Mack ignored Weller's order in May 2005 to pay $10,000 a month in
temporary alimony payments. Weller found him in contempt of court,
but Mack filed for personal bankruptcy in August to avoid paying,
according to the filing.
Investigators think Mack may have fled to California based on
his contact with Donner, who lives in Moraga, Calif., and because
his company credit card was used at the Sacramento airport Monday.