Cryptic note emerges in case of Reno killing, judge shooting
RENO (AP) – “End problem.”
The words appear on a note police found in Darren Mack’s condominium – a note prosecutors believe makes a number of cryptic references to the alleged murder of his estranged wife and sniper attack on the family court judge Mack apparently felt was unfairly handling their ugly divorce.
It was among the evidence presented during a preliminary hearing in Reno Justice Court on Wednesday before a justice of the peace ordered the 45-year-old former Reno pawn shop owner bound over for trial in Washoe District Court for the alleged murder and attempted murder just hours apart on June 12.
Reno Police Det. Shanna Wallin-Reed said she found the handwritten note on a table in the kitchen of Darren Mack’s condo where Charla’s bloodstained body was discovered in the adjacent garage.
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 paper from a note pad 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 11 a.m., striking Judge Chuck Weller in the chest in his third-floor chambers.
Osborne testified at Wednesday’s preliminary hearing in the same courthouse on Wednesday that Mack was frustrated with Weller’s handling of the divorce case and felt he wasn’t getting a fair hearing. A reporter for a Reno television station earlier said that Mack had approached her in the weeks before the shooting with allegations that Weller was corrupt.
Weller has recovered from his wounds. 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. But Justice of the Peace Edward 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 “Animal Planet” on 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. Eventually, he took the girl to Mack’s mother and telephoned police.
The forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy on Charla 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.
The Washoe County District Attorney’s office earlier agreed that a special prosecutor, Christopher Lalli of Clark County, should handle the case because the local DA Richard Gammick had a history with Mack and helped negotiate his surrender.
Mack’s attorneys argued Wednesday 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.
But Dannan disagreed and the hearing went forward.
Associated Press writer Sandra Chereb also contributed to this report.