Wealthy pawn broker, swinger sought in Reno judge shooting | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Wealthy pawn broker, swinger sought in Reno judge shooting

Tom Gardner

RENO (AP) – He’s a wealthy pawn broker and a swinger, and police say Darren Mack also is a federal fugitive who may have fled to the San Francisco Bay area after allegedly slashing his wife to death and shooting a family court judge.

The Justice Department charged Mack Thursday with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution on a state murder charge filed earlier in Monday’s slaying of his estranged wife.

Mack’s cousin, Jeffrey Donner, who lives in Moraga, Calif., said Mack called him minutes after Judge Chuck Weller was shot Monday afternoon through his third-floor office window by a sniper firing a high-powered rifle from a building three football fields away.

Donner told reporters Wednesday that Mack’s “message was ‘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.”‘

“He was just obsessed with bringing this judge down. Not physically. I never heard anything like that, but by reputation,” Donner said. He said Mack had been talking about his displeasure with the judge for a year.

“The judge was very biased, very prejudiced, made decisions before he heard all the facts and was very unfair and very unjust,” he said of Mack’s impressions of the judge.

Investigators said Mack may have headed west because of the contact with Donner and because a credit card used by the company he owns was used at the Sacramento airport Monday afternoon.

“It doesn’t mean it was his company card,” Reno Police Officer Fred Riglesberger said on Thursday. He said a grainy surveillance tape of a person who could be Mack may never result in a positive identification.

“A lot of businesses are getting better cameras, but some of these are almost worthless. You can’t even tell a person’s ethnicity.”

On Thursday, search teams found evidence related to Charla Mack’s slaying near Interstate 80 in west Reno, but would not disclose what it was, Riglesberger said.

Forensics teams were continuing to comb the building from which it’s believed the shot was fired and the home where the murder occurred.

Riglesberger said “hundreds and hundreds” of tips had come in from as far away as Miami and Des Moines, Iowa.

“The more eyes we have out there looking for him, the better the chances we’ll get him,” he said.

Donner said he was shocked by reports of the shooting because Mack is “just not a violent person.”

“If he is in fact responsible for this, it is totally out of character and it is simply an example of somebody that has snapped,” he said, choking back tears.

Police issued the murder warrant Tuesday for Mack, 45, in the stabbing death of Charla Mack, 39, and declared him a suspect in the shooting of Weller.

Weller, 53, who was shot once in the chest, was released from Washoe Medical Center on Tuesday to an undisclosed, secure location, police said.

Investigators were searching data bases at public and private airports and rental agencies across the western U.S., Reno Police Lt. Ron Donnelly said. He said Mack may try to contact one of the women he met through several Internet dating services he had accounts with.

Mack owns a Bushmaster .223 semiautomatic rifle, which is missing, Donnelly said. The high-powered rifle, which police believed was used in the shooting of Weller, is the same type of firearm John Lee Malvo and John Allen Muhammad used in a series of sniper killings in the Washington D.C. area in 2002.

Charla Mack filed for divorce in 2005, and a mutual restraining order was signed in May 2005, court records. A custody hearing was scheduled before Weller in September.

Court documents filed six months before the couple separated in 2004 said Mack earned more than $500,000 a year and had a net worth of $9.4 million.

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 bankruptcy in August to avoid paying, according to the filing.

Meador said in court documents that Mack continued to live a lavish lifestyle, took frequent vacations with girlfriends and often attended “swinger” parties in Las Vegas and San Francisco.

– Associated Press reporter Scott Sonner in Reno contributed to this report.


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