Startling Testimony in Mack Hearing

By: Koula Gianulias
By: Koula Gianulias

A judge ordered former Reno pawn shop owner Darren Mack to stand trial Wednesday for the alleged murder of his estranged wife and sniper attack on the family court judge who was handling their divorce.

Justice of the Peace Edward Dannan bound Mack, 45, over for trial in Washoe District Court after a Reno police detective testified about a note, found in Mack's condominium with notations prosecutors believe are relevant to the crime, including the words: "End problem."

Detectove Shanna Wallin-Reed said she found the hand-written note on a table in the kitchen of Darren Mack's condo where Charla's bloodstained body was discovered in the adjoining garage.

It makes a number of cryptic references investigators maintain were part of plan to allegedly kill Charla and shoot Family Court Judge Chuck Weller on June 12th.

Among other things, the note said, "Dan, take Erica to Joan." On the morning of the killing and subsequent attack on Weller less than two hours later, Mack's longtime friend Dan Osborne drove Mack's daughter Erica to the home of Mack's mother, Joan, at Mack's request.

The note also mentions the garage door at the condo being open before the words, "End problem."

The note then refers to "put Lex in garage." The Lexus Charla Mack drove to the condo that day was found in the garage next to her body, police said.

Next, the note said "lock home," and then concludes with "Parking garage - if yes."

Prosecutors have accused Mack of driving a Ford Explorer he rented a week earlier to the top of a downtown parking garage, just across the Truckee River from the courthouse, after allegedly killing Charla. He's accused of firing a shot or shots some 300 yards with a high-powered rifle through a courthouse window at about 11AM, striking Weller in the chest in his third-floor chambers.

Osborne testified at Wednesday's preliminary hearing that Mack was frustrated with Weller's handling of the divorce case and felt he wasn't getting a fair hearing.

Weller has since recovered.

Mack surrendered to authorities in Mexico 11 days later after an extensive manhunt.

Mack's lawyers, Scott Freeman and David Chesnoff, argued that the note should not be submitted as evidence because there is no way to tell when it was written or who wrote it.

However, Dannan overruled and allowed it into the case.

Osborne also testified that he was at the condo when Charla Mack arrived with the couple's daughter the day of the killing and watched television with the girl upstairs while Mack said he was going to talk to Charla.

Fifteen to 20 minutes later, Osborne said he heard his own dog barking and that the dog came through the garage door into the condo ahead of Mack.

The dog had blood on it and Mack had "a weird look," Osborne said.

Pressed by prosecutors to explain, Osborne said the look was "scared. I don't know how to describe it." He said his dog had blood on its "face, throat and feet."

"Just from that, I freaked out. I didn't know what happened. I took Erica and the dog outside," Osborne said. He took the girl to Mack's mother and telephoned police.

The forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Charla Mack said she died as a result of at least seven different stab wounds, including one to the neck near her collarbone.

That wound cut a large artery, "cut her esophagus in half and nearly cut her trachea in half," Dr. Katherine Raven said.

Charla Mack also suffered wounds to her forearm, wrist, elbow and lower legs, wounds Raven said were consistent with a victim trying to fend off an attacker.

Dannan's order for Mack to stand trial came over the objections of Mack's lawyers, who wanted him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation before the preliminary hearing continued.

Still to be determined is whether Mack's trial will take place in one of the Washoe County courtrooms in Reno. Mack's lawyers want all the county's judges to be disqualified. A Clark County judge in Las Vegas is still considering that motion and may rule as soon as Thursday.

Mack's attorneys argued that two experts hired by the defense questioned Mack's mental competency, and that a thorough evaluation should be ordered by the court before the case continues.

"This is not a ploy," Freeman said, when Special Prosecutor Christopher Lalli questioned the timing of the motion filed late Tuesday. "This is a real issue."

The defense further argued they couldn't specify what prompted their concerns over Mack's mental state because they were protected by attorney-client privilege.

In response to the motion and over defense objections, Lalli, called Social Worker Kristen Monibi as a witness. Monibi has been involved in Washoe County's petition to get legal custody of Mack's daughter.

She testified that during those proceedings, Mack didn't appear to have difficulty conversing with his lawyers or others involved.

Under cross-examination by Chesnoff, Monibi acknowledged she never heard Mack's conversations with his lawyers and that while trained to recognize signs of mental illness, she was not a mental health expert.


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