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Darren Roy MACK





Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Angry over a divorce settlement
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: June 12, 2006
Date of arrest: 11 days after
Date of birth: January 31, 1961
Victim profile: Charla Mack, 39 (his estranged wife)
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Reno, Washoe County, Nevada, USA
Status: Pleaded guilty. Sentenced to life in prison, minimum 36 years on February 7, 2008
photo gallery

Darren Roy Mack (born January 31, 1961) became the subject of an international manhunt in June 2006 after being charged with the stabbing death of his 39-year-old estranged wife, Charla Mack, in the garage of their Reno, Nevada home.

Mack was also suspected of, and later charged with, the sniper shooting of Family Court Judge Chuck Weller, who was handling the couple’s acrimonious divorce. Charla Mack was murdered after 9:00 a.m. on June 12, 2006, and Judge Weller was shot around 11:05 a.m. the same day. Judge Weller spent time recovering, and returned to his courtroom on August 16.

According to a close friend, Mack was angry over a divorce settlement issued by Judge Weller. In addition to child support capped by state law at $849 per month, Darren Mack was ordered to pay $10,000 per month for spousal support plus household expenses. Darren Mack's gross monthly income was approximately $44,000 (528,000/yr), while his wife had no income.

Mack evaded police for 10 days, during which time he was featured on the Fox show America's Most Wanted and the FBI’s Most Wanted website. Mack was a hunter and sportsman and records show he owned a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun and a Bushmaster .223 semi-automatic rifle. Police said he possessed a federal firearms license and permit to carry a concealed weapon. A search of his apartment found ammunition and bomb materials.

Mack surrendered to Mexican authorities after they surrounded him at a resort's pool in Puerto Vallarta on June 22, 2006. The following day he was flown to Dallas, Texas for booking, and returned to Reno. Authorities located Mack’s rented silver Ford Explorer in Ensenada.

On February 24, 2007, CBS featured Mack's crimes in a 48 Hours Mystery story entitled, "The Darren Mack Case".

On April 24, 2012, the channel Investigation Discovery featured a story on the crime and a re-enactment of it (with actors) on their show Deadly Sins.

On November 5, 2007, Mack pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and entered an Alford plea on the charge of attempted murder.


Early life

Darren Mack grew up in northern Nevada and graduated from Reno High School. He attended the University of Nevada on a baseball scholarship. Mack had been involved in the family-owned Palace Jewelry and Loan[14] pawn shop since the age of seven, and at the time of his arrest was a part-owner and eBay merchant. In 2003 his income was estimated at $500,000 annually, and his net worth at $9.4 million. According to his brother Landon, Mack was active politically and founded the Nevada Pawnbroker Association.


From 1986 to 1991, Mack had been married to Debra Ashlock; the couple had a son and daughter. According to The Union, this was Mack’s second marriage. He and Charla were married on May 13, 1995, and she filed for divorce on February 7, 2005. The couple had a 7-year-old daughter. Charla warned a family friend, "He's out to get me and someday he will probably kill me."

Ironically, in 1998 a Reno billboard had proclaimed "The Mack Family Presents: Darren Mack. 1998 Father/Husband of the Year. A unanimous decision by his wife, Charla, and his three wonderful children."


Mack was originally defended by attorneys Scott Freeman of Reno and David Chesnoff of Las Vegas. Chesnoff has built a national reputation by representing celebrities including Martha Stewart and Britney Spears.[19] The Washoe County District Attorney recused his office from the case because of a longstanding personal relationship with Darren Mack, and because he could be a witness.[20] Chief Deputy DA Robert Daskas and Assistant DA Christopher Lalli of the Clark County District Attorney’s office handled the prosecution.

At a preliminary hearing on August 30, 2006, Mack was held over for trial. His defense attorneys sought a court-ordered mental competency evaluation. On September 11, prosecutors announced they would not seek the death penalty. Mack pleaded not guilty to the charges at an arraignment on September 13, and his trial was set for October 1, 2007. As of October 4, 2006, attorney Scott Freeman tried to get Mack's attempted murder charge dropped.

Following his earlier decision in the criminal cases, on October 13 Senior Judge J. Charles Thompson disqualified the entire Washoe County bench from all civil cases against Mack.[26] The trial was moved to Las Vegas, and Clark County District Judge Douglas Herndon was appointed to the case.

On November 5, 2007, Mack pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and entered an Alford plea to the attempted murder charge, just as the trial was to begin, in exchange for a recommendation by the prosecutor for life in prison with parole available after 20 years. The judge was not bound by the sentencing recommendation. Mack said during the plea, "I do understand right now in my state of mind that shooting at the judiciary is not a proper form of political redress".

Mack attempted to withdraw his pleas, saying he was coerced by Chesnoff and Freeman and that his signature was forged. Judge Douglas Herndon denied Mack's motion to withdraw, filed by his new defense attorney William Routsis. During sentencing, Routsis continued to renew his requests for Herndon to grant Mack a new trial.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Herndon sentenced Mack to life in prison for murdering his wife. He also gave Mack the maximum sentence of 40 years, with parole eligibility after 16 years, for the attempted murder of Judge Weller and a deadly weapon enhancement. The sentences run consecutively, rendering Mack ineligible for parole for at least 36 years. Another hearing on his arguments was scheduled for April 2008.

On March 18, 2008, a Washoe County jury delivered a $590 million settlement against Mack in the wrongful-death lawsuit of his wife, Charla. $560 million was awarded to the couple's young daughter, Erika, with the remainder to go to his wife's estate.


In an updated segment of 48 Hours Mystery on August 8, 2009, CBS reported that Mack continues to appeal his conviction (on grounds that he pled guilty under duress) and is also appealing the $590 million civil judgment. Judge Weller has filed a personal injury lawsuit against Mack, seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Mack's appeal, which was based on the argument that the judge should have allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea, was heard by the Nevada Supreme Court in 2010, and denied.

In February 2012 Mack again raised this issue in a petition filed in United States District Court.

Mack claims he has no money left.


Reno Man Sentenced to 40 Years in Wife's Murder and Shooting of Judge

February 08, 2008

RENO, Nev. – A judge sentenced a former Reno pawn shop owner to life in prison on Friday for killing his wife and shooting the judge who was handling their bitter divorce.

District Judge Douglas Herndon sentenced Darren Mack to a minimum of 36 years in prison.

Mack, 46, pleaded guilty in November to murder in the June 2006 stabbing death of his wife, Charla, and the equivalent of no contest to attempted murder in the same-day sniper-style shooting of Family Court Judge Chuck Weller. Weller, who was shot through a window at the Washoe County courthouse, has recovered from his wounds.

Herndon imposed the maximum terms of a plea deal by sentencing Mack to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years on the murder charge.

The judge also upheld the recommendation of Special Prosecutor Christopher Lalli by sentencing Mack to 40 years with parole possible after 16 years for attempted murder with a deadly weapon.

Both terms are to run back-to-back.

In handing down the sentence, Herndon cited the heinous nature of the crimes and Mack's lack of remorse.

"The truth is Mr. Mack is guilty of these crimes, but he doesn't want to hear anything about that," the judge said.

During testimony Thursday, Mack reiterated his claims that he acted in self defense when the slashed his wife's throat in the garage of his southeast Reno town house.

He also has argued that he was coerced by his former lawyers into the plea deal, and suggested the attorneys, prosecutors, investigators and law enforcement officers who investigated the case were corrupt.

Herndon said while he allowed Mack to speak at length, he never said what the judge hoped he'd hear: "I'm sorry."

Herndon's sentencing followed emotional testimony earlier Friday by Charla Mack's family and Weller.

Soorya Townley described how she and her daughter had grown closer as they got older.

"I was one of those lucky mothers to be best friends with my daughter," she said. "In those last years, Charla and I cleared our past mother-daughter conflicts."

She said her daughter's dream was to sing professionally, or start a business developing seminars for divorcing couples.

"Charla believed ... she could even tame Darren's rage" and get him involved," Townley said.

Mack hung his head in his hands and appeared to cry when Townley concluded her testimony with a song Charla had recorded before her death.

"It was a song she wanted to sing to Darren," Townley said.

Authorities said Mack, upset with contentious divorce proceedings and his belief that Weller was corrupt, killed his estranged wife when she arrived to drop off their daughter.

Charla Mack had filed for divorce in 2005. In court documents, her lawyer said Darren Mack ignored Weller's order to pay her $10,000 a month in temporary alimony. Weller found him in contempt of court, but Mack filed for bankruptcy to avoid paying.

The lawyer also said in documents that Mack continued to live a lavish lifestyle, took frequent vacations with girlfriends and often attended "swinger" parties.

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

Mack then drove to downtown a parking garage, where he shot Weller from 170 yards away. In his plea, Mack admitted shooting Weller, but denied he intended to kill him.

After shooting the judge, Mack fled to Mexico, where he voluntarily surrendered 11 days later.

His trial, which was moved to Las Vegas because of extensive media coverage in Reno, ended Nov. 5 when Mack entered his pleas after prosecutors had finished presenting their case. Soon after, he fired his previous lawyers, hired William Routsis to represent him, and tried unsuccessfully to withdraw his pleas and get another trial.

On Friday, Routsis said he would take the case to the Nevada Supreme Court, which this week denied his motion seeking to block the sentencing and allow Mack to withdraw his pleas.

Lalli was pleased.

"A very sad chapter in the history of this community has come to an end," he said.


Darren Mack Testifies in Sentencing Hearing

By Mark Sayre -

February 7, 2008

For nearly three hours, Darren Mack took the stand and tried to convince a judge he should not spend the rest of his life in prison. Mack is the Reno businessman who admitted to stabbing his wife -- and then attempting to kill the judge who was overseeing the couple's divorce.

It is not unusual for a defendant to say a few words of apology at a sentencing hearing -- but the length of Mack's statements Thursday is unusual.

Prosecutors are asking the judge to follow the recommendations of the State Department of Parole and Probation -- and send Mack to prison for 36 years. But Mack is still asserting he did not voluntarily enter the plea deal that brought him to this point:

"The way I put it -- and I don't mean it too sarcastically -- but if you really buy that I did that voluntarily, I got a great bridge to sell you," said Mack.

It was June 12, 2006 when Darren Mack admits -- he stabbed his wife. Mack also admitted the state could prove he attempted to kill Reno judge Chuck Weller. The trial was eventually moved to Las Vegas because a jury could not be found in Reno.

Thursday, Mack railed against his former attorneys saying that he was "pressured" into taking a plea deal by his previous defense team which included Reno attorney Scott Freeman.

"I told him flat out -- what it was about for me is that you stole my choice by what you broke me down into. It wasn't my choice. You guys pushed me so hard and when Freeman turned on that last weekend, it broke my will," said Mack.

If the judge accepts the terms of the plea deal -- Darren Mack will spend a minimum of 20 years in prison before he has a possibility of parole. But that prison term could be longer if judge Doug Herndon decides to run the sentences for the stabbing of Mack's wife -- and the shooting of the judge -- consecutively rather than concurrently.

Mack's son and his mother also testified Thursday -- at times bring the courtroom to tears. This sentencing hearing has recessed for the the night and will resume Friday morning.


Mack Thought About Killing One More

Brandon Rittiman - Channel 2 News

January 17, 2008

In a hearing to determine if he'll be allowed a new trial, Reno pawnshop owner Darren Mack took the stand to explain his position that his attorneys coerced him into a guilty plea.

On cross examination Mack admitted to killing his wife and shooting Judge Chuck Weller sniper-style the morning of June 12, 2006. Special Prosecutor Christopher Lalli asked Mack if he had seen his wife Charla's attorney Shawn Meador that same morning, would Mack have killed Meador as well?

Mack responded he had thought about it.

Mack flatly denied claims by prosecutors that he attempted to hire some one to murder his wife Charla and a family court judge.

Mack admitted he's taken about 100 pills of ecstasy in his life. During testimony Wednesday, former Mack defense attorney David Chesnoff defended his decision to use Mack's drug use in his opening statements during trial, as a compounding factor to Mack's insanity.

Mack did admit to lying to Judge Douglas Herndon during a series of questions November 5, called a plea canvass, designed to make certain Mack willingly made his guilty pleas to murder and attempted murder and he understood it.

"I was broken down," Mack said of the day he took a plea bargain, "I needed help."

Mack says that's why he wanted his family to help him in his decision, but claims attorney David Chesnoff forced him to sign the plea agreement before speaking with them.

Comparing the experience to being "psychologically raped", Mack told the court, "I have a whole new compassion for women who are raped now."

"It was almost like being a puppet," Mack said of his former attorneys David Chesnoff and Scott Freeman, "you just speak."

"I wouldn't enter a guilty plea on murder one," he added, "because I didn't murder Charla."

On direct examination by his new attorney William Routsis, Mack described a fight with his wife Charla that ended in her death.

He claims she picked up his gun, pointed it at him, smiled, and pulled the trigger. The gun, Mack says, misfired. Mack says he stabbed and killed her in self-defense. Mack told the court the pistol ended up in her hair, with some hair stuck in the hammer.

Mack says he asked his previous defense team, specifically Scott Freeman, to search for the gun. He says the attorneys turned him down because the knife used to kill Charla would be with it.

He also took issue with the defense strategy used in his trial, which began in late October in Las Vegas.

"I'm not insane," Mack said to explain his concern about the insanity defense.

In opening arguments, Freeman and Chesnoff made a case that Mack killed his wife in self-defense, but went on to shoot Judge Chuck Weller, who presided over the couple's divorce, as an act of insanity.

Judge Douglas Herndon, presiding over the murder trial, asked Mack on the record before opening arguments whether he understood that self-defense was not what his attorneys feel he should use.

Mack said he understood and decided to go forward using a self-defense argument.

Wednesday, Mack's former attorney David Chesnoff took the stand, saying Mack wanted to plead guilty, understood what he was doing, and was told he could change his mind any time before accepting it in court.

The plea agreement ended the trial on November 5, giving Mack a life sentence with the chance of parole after no less than 20 years for his first degree murder charge.


Darren Mack Enters Guilty Plea for Murder

By Mark Sayre -

November 5, 2007

Accused murderer Darren Mack has entered a guilty plea in the death of his estranged wife, Charla Mack, and an Alford Plea in the shooting of a Reno judge.

In a surprise move Monday morning, 46-year-old Mack entered the pleas bringing a close to his trial which started on Oct. 24. The defense was supposed to begin giving its case to the jury Monday morning after the prosecution rested on Friday following seven full days of testimony. The trial was moved to Las Vegas because an impartial jury could not be found in Reno.

Mack stabbed his wife to death in his garage on June 12, 2006 and then shot Family Court Judge Chuck Weller through a courthouse window.

"Shooting at the judiciary is not the proper form of political redress," Mack told the judge. By entering the Alford Plea in the judge's shooting, which means that Mack does not admit to the act but admits there is sufficient evidence to find him guilty.

Charla Mack filed for divorce in 2005. In court documents, her lawyer said Darren Mack ignored Weller's order to pay her $10,000 a month in temporary alimony. Weller found him in contempt of court, and Mack filed for bankruptcy to avoid paying.

Mack had earlier pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the attempted murder charge and had said he killed his wife in self-defense. In exchange for his admissions, prosecutors agreed to recommend a sentence of life in prison with possible parole after 20 years, though the judge is not bound by that agreement. Mack also faces two to 20 years on the attempted murder charge. Under Nevada law, his sentence automatically will be doubled because a deadly weapon was involved.

Mack is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Doug Herndon in Las Vegas on Jan. 17 and 18. Mack has made it clear that he wants to have the opportunity to speak at his sentencing.

"There are some very important things to say, and I've remained quiet through this whole thing," Mack said.

Soorya Townley, Charla's mother, said she was pleased with the outcome. She called Mack a "sociopath," who "hypnotized himself into believing he's justified and he's the victim." "All I can see in my mind is how my daughter was slaughtered like an animal -- she was slaughtered like an animal -- and she was the mother of his children. And she was one of the most magnificent people that has ever walked this earth and we don't have her anymore," Townley said.

Prominent Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred is representing Judge Chuck Weller who made this brief statement:

"I am proud to be a judge and I'm proud to be a part of a legal system that gives every accused the right to a fair trial. I am very glad that this dark night is over -- or at least that a portion of this dark night is over. I want to thank everybody who, by their actions and their prayers, supported me and my wife and my children," said Weller.

Darren Mack's mother, Joan, and his brother, Landon, left the courthouse without making any public comments.

Mack's attorney, David Chesnoff, says Mack's was ready to take responsibility for what he had done. "He wound up in what he calls a perfect storm and he wanted some finality to it and he is also didn't want to spend time disparaging his deceased wife," he said.

And prosecutors say the deal is also good for the state.

"Well we had two objectives -- one was to convict Darken Mack of first degree murder which we did. The other objective was to convict him of attempted murder which we did -- so we're really achieving the objectives of the prosecutors by this negotiation," said assistant district attorney, Christopher Lalli.


I-Team: State Rests in Darren Mack Murder Trial

By Mark Sayre -

November 2, 2007

After seven full days of testimony -- the prosecution has rested in the Darren Mack murder trial. Jurors heard from an FBI agent involved in Mack's eventual surrender in Mexico.

It's been a long journey to get to this point. This case officially began in Reno more than a month ago -- and the case was moved to Las Vegas because an impartial jury could not be found in there.

Again Friday, prosecutors focused on Darren Mack's run from the law -- and his eventual surrender in Mexico. On the stand -- an FBI agent who works out of a U.S. consulate.

He arrived -- along with Mexican immigration authorities -- in the resort town of Puerto Vallarta where Mack had agreed to surrender. When Mack had a moment alone with the FBI agent, he asked the agent a rather unusual question.

"He told me that he had $37,500 in cash inside his suitcase, and he asked me who was going to remain with that suitcase during that evening?" said FBI agent Stephen Kling.

"Based upon his comments, was it your impression the defendant was concerned about that money?" asked prosecutor Robert Daskas.

Also introduced as evidence Friday -- a photo taken on the bathroom mirror of Charla Mack's home. It says, "So long and good riddance."

Neither the defense nor the prosecution could conclusively say who wrote the message. The defense hinted it could have been a message from Charla Mack to Darren Mack.

So the defense will begin its case on Monday. The defense theory is that Darren Mack killed Charla Mack in self-defense, and then was legally insane at the time he shot the judge.


I-Team: Star Witness Takes Stand in Darren Mack Trial

By Mark Sayre -

October 30, 2007

One of the prosecution's star witnesses took the stand Tuesday at the Darren Mack murder trial. The judge who was shot and wounded by Mack recounted what happened. Mack admits he shot the judge while he was insane.

Judge Chuck Weller says he had just left the bench and was standing next to his desk in his chambers. It was June 12th, 2006.

Prosecutors asked Judge Weller to tell jury exactly what he experienced the moment he was shot.

"And there was this very loud noise, and I had a glimpse of the window. It had a hole in it. I had this burning sensation right here. I thought maybe my cell phone has exploded in my shirt pocket. Then I realized I didn't not have a cell phone in my shirt pocket. And I was trying to figure out what had happened, and it occurred to me that I had just been shot through the window," he said.

Judge Weller had been overseeing the divorce proceedings between Darren Mack and his wife, Charla.

The judge says he immediately suspected Darren Mack might be behind the shooting because he had seen some hostile Internet postings he believed Mack had written.

Mack's attorney David Chesnoff cross examined the judge -- asking him if he should have disqualified himself from Mack's divorce case.

"Isn't it a fair statement that to be a judge and not have the appearance of impropriety the wise thing to do when you think that someone is publicly defaming you, and you are sitting on their case, to remove yourself from the case?" asked Chesnoff.

Judge Weller responded, "That's absurd. There are rules on when a judge is to remove himself from a case, and it certainly not when you are insulted publicly. It's a matter of degree -- when he shot me, I removed myself from the case. That was across the line, but insulting someone publicly is not a reason to remove somebody from a case."

Earlier, jurors heard from Darren Mack himself by way of a videotape where Mack railed against Judge Weller and the entire family court system.

"It's time to take a stand. It's time to not let this tyranny go under the wraps, keep it quiet. Somebody has to stand up. If our forefathers in 1776 stood by and said just keep quiet, maybe England will go away, we'd be sipping tea right now," said Mack on the videotape.

Attorneys on both sides estimate the state could conclude its case by Monday.

At that point, Darren Mack's attorneys will press their theory that Mack killed his wife in self-defense and then was insane at the time he shot the judge.


Darren Mack on FBI's Most Wanted

June 21, 2006

The FBI added Darren Mack to its list of "Most Wanted" fugitives today as family members paid their last respects at a funeral service for the estranged wife he's accused of killing.

The mothers of both Charla Mack and Darren Mack were among an estimated 500 people who attended the private service Tuesday in west Reno.

The 45-year-old Mack is the wealthy former co-owner of a Reno pawn shop. He hasn't been seen since the June 12th stabbing death of Charla and sniper shooting of Family Court Judge Chuck Weller. He's a suspect in both cases.

Weller, who was wounded in the chest but is recovering, was handling the couple's pending divorce.

The FBI is giving Mack top billing on it's Web site for the "Most Wanted" list. He's described as a five-foot-11, 190-pound, dark-haired man who is a bodybuilder and hunter with "access to all types of weapons."

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller said Mack should be considered "armed and dangerous."

Reno lawyer Scott Freeman says he has been retained by Darren Mack's family to represent Mack "when and if he is found." Freeman says he is cooperating with investigators but has not heard from Mack or anyone who knew him since he disappeared.

Charla Mack's mother, Soorya Townley, and Charla's brother, Christopher Broughton, accompanied Darren and Charla's 8-year-old daughter, Erica, to Tuesday's funeral. Also attending were Darren Mack's only brother, 43-year-old Landon Mack, and his mother, Joan Mack.


Caught In The Crossfire

A Wife And Judge Get Caught In The Crossfire Of An Explosive Divorce

Produced by Mary Noonan and Lourdes Aguiar

This episode previously aired on May 23, 2008. It was updated on Aug. 8, 2009.

On June 12, 2006, the people of Reno, Nev., were glued to their televisions following the brazen shooting of Family Court Judge Chuck Weller.

"My thoughts immediately turned towards Charla and her whereabouts," remembers Ann Mudd who, along with Christine Libert, desperately tried to reach her friend Charla Mack.

The two women were convinced Charla was in danger; their fears were confirmed when they later heard on the news she had been murdered.

What led to the shooting of Judge Weller and Charla's murder? Was there a connection between the two cases? Troy Roberts reports.

Successful Reno businessman Darren Mack married Charla in 1995. From the beginning, everyone says they had a chemistry that was undeniable.

"I think when you saw the two of them walk into a room, they were explosive together. Charla just fired him up. She was fire," explains writer Amanda Robb, who reported on the Mack case for Marie Claire magazine.

Darren is the oldest son of a wealthy Reno family; his parents owned one of the largest pawn shops in the city. When his father was killed in a 1986 plane crash, Darren became half owner of the business and, according to court records, was said to be worth almost $10 million.

But Darren had been married before. Darren and his ex-wife had two children together but the marriage collapsed. "He would not stop fighting with Debbie. She spent more than a quarter of a million dollars in legal fees just responding to him," Robb says. "And Charla was on his side at the time."

Darren had joint custody and for a while at least, he, Charla, and his kids seemed to be one big happy family. But Darren and Charla's clean-cut family image was a far cry from their private lives. "They became sort of a fixture on the strip club circuit in and around Reno," Robb explains. "It moved up into swinging."

Things changed after daughter Erika was born in 1997. Charla told Darren she was no longer interested in swinging.

And as the marriage began to crumble, letters and e-mails "48 Hours" obtained document an increasingly abusive relationship.

But it wasn't Charla who claimed to be the victim - it was Darren. "He kept a diary, in which he said she kicked him in the testicles, but missed, she scratched his car, she yelled at him on the phone. Oh, yes. She belittled him in front of his friends, went on, and on and on for six pages like this," Robb explains.

Darren's friend Michael Small says that despite his imposing stature, Darren lived in fear. He says a big part of Darren's desire to end the marriage was the alleged abuse. "It's a known fact that he carried a gun because he was worried she was gonna come kill him," he says.

But Charla was apparently looking over her shoulder, too. "He showed up at the house where she and Erika were and they had some kind of confrontation. And he had her by the neck and was trying to strangle her," Ann says.

In the end, it was Charla who filed for divorce, and Darren moved out. The couple fought constantly over Erika but fought even more over money, which Darren claimed was running out.

Judge Weller ordered Darren to pay Charla $10,000 a month until the divorce was settled. But Darren thought the ruling, and the judge, were unfair.

Just after 11 a.m. on June 12, 2006, bystanders in downtown Reno heard a loud bang echo off the buildings. Police shut down the city, while SWAT teams fanned out searching for what they believed was a sniper.

It turned out only one bullet was fired that morning, exploding through the window of Weller's office and spraying him and his assistant with shrapnel.

It was just minutes after the shooting when police got a break from a phone call. The caller, Darren's childhood friend Dan Osborne, had a disturbing story to tell: he had been at Darren's home that morning when Charla dropped off their daughter. He and Erika stayed upstairs while Darren spoke to Charla privately.

"Downstairs somehow Darren lured Charla into the garage," says Robb. "The daughter upstairs heard a dog yelping and told Darren's friend 'I think your dog is yelping.'"

After the frantic barking continued, Osborne told police he went to check on his dog. That's when he ran into Darren coming out of the garage. Osborne said Darren brushed past him with a weird look, his hand wrapped in a towel, and that he didn't say a word.

"Few moments later, the dog came in, covered in blood," says Detective Ron Chalmers.

Osborne put Erika in his car and started driving; minutes later, his cell phone rang. It was Darren. "And Darren says 'Meet me at Starbucks.' The friend, who is completely flipped out at this point, meets him at Starbucks with the little girl," Robb says.

Mack took his daughter aside and spoke to her for a few minutes and then drove off on his own.

Based on Osborne's story, police rushed to Darren's condo. Behind the garage, they found Charla's lifeless body, stabbed multiple times.

A search of the condo turned up incriminating evidence, including a note that, on closer inspection, police believed to be a chilling step-by-step guide for the day's bloody events. The media dubbed it "Darren's to-do list."

Police also found a rental contract for a silver Ford Explorer, and a crucial piece of the puzzle that tied everything together: the list had the phrase "parking garage if yes."

Police reviewed surveillance video of the garage across from Weller's office. At 10:41 a.m., just 20 minutes before he was shot, a silver Ford Explorer was photographed entering the parking garage.

Police believe the shooter pulled into the garage, drove up to the fifth floor and backed in so the rear of the vehicle was facing the justice center.

The judge was shot at about 11:05 a.m.; the video surveillance shows the Explorer's rear hatch being closed at 11:05; the vehicle then left the garage.

Within hours, news reports broadcast that Darren was not only the prime suspect in the Weller shooting but was also a target in the murder investigation of his estranged wife, Charla.

But Darren was nowhere to be found. While Weller was being treated for his wounds at a local hospital, a nationwide search was underway.

Darren's cousin Jeff Donner even went on television to make an impassioned plea; Darren had called Donner just minutes after Weller was shot. "The press needs to ask what went wrong in that courtroom...that would make a good loving, caring person like this possibly snap," Donner said.

"That courtroom" belonged to Weller. And what went wrong, in Darren's mind, was just about everything. "He felt Weller wasn't listening. He also felt that Charla's attorney was lying about everything he was filing. But Weller was letting him get away with it," explains Michael Small.

Small and Mack had a lot in common: both men were in the midst of bitter custody fights. And both men appeared before Weller. Small says his own experience in Weller's courtroom sheds light on Darren's intense frustration.

Weller ordered Small to return his son to Florida where his ex-wife lives, an arrangement Small said would put the child at risk. But a Florida judge had already rejected that claim.

Weller's hands were tied: he said his court did not have jurisdiction in this case. When Small missed the deadline to return the boy, a Florida judge threw him in jail for 45 days.

Both men were losing, both men blamed Weller, and both men started a campaign against him. "We felt that something big did have to happen in order for people to know what was going on in order to shed light on the situation," Small says.

"Something big like what? Like a judge being shot?" Roberts asks.

"No," Small says. "We never talked about that. We never thought about that, we never wanted anyone to get hurt."

Clearly, Weller was not a popular judge. "Judge Weller had twice as many preemptory challenges as the other family court judges," says the Reno Gazette's Martha Bellilse, who specializes in legal affairs for her newspaper.

Asked what kind of criticism she has heard about Weller, Bellisle says, "That he tended to make decisions quickly, wouldn't hear both sides."

But being unpopular and having a bias are two different things. Bellisle says she doesn't know if there is any evidence Weller made rulings that were more favorable to women.

Dean Tong was part of Darren's divorce legal team and says Mack had said Weller was a "anti-father's rights judge." Tong also says Darren was a difficult client. "He seemed like a guy who would have trouble listening to others. He wanted to basically call the shots," he remembers.

Tong, who specializes in custody issues, warned Darren there are certain things that just won't sit well with any judge when it comes to deciding who gets custody. "He wanted to still continue to do what he was doing, which was the sex, swinging on the side," Tong explains.

Tong says he explained to his client that his extra-curricular activities could jeopardize the case. Mack's response? "He took a deep breath and said 'Well you know, we'll address it. We'll talk about it,'" Tong recalls.

Apparently Darren didn't take the warning seriously. In fact, he later took a trip to the famous Moonlite Bunny Ranch, a legal, licensed brothel, to celebrate his impending divorce.

But back at home the party was over. Weller had repeatedly asked Darren and Charla to try to reach some kind of financial agreement on their own so he wouldn't be forced to do it for them. They did hammer out a deal, but when that fell apart the judge stepped in and ordered Darren to pay up.

"He had to pay her a lump sum of $480,000, out of which she was supposed to buy a home and a car. And then over the next five years, she was supposed to receive $10,000 a month in spousal support," Robb says.

Small says the ruling left Darren disillusioned and frightened. "Could not believe this was happening. He was about to lose a lot of his money."

Darren was ordered to make that payment of close to half a million dollars to Charla, but soon after that hearing she was dead.

Asked if he thinks Weller's rulings pushed Darren over the edge, Small says, "I can't say Darren did this. Do I think Judge Weller's rulings added to all that is enough to push someone over the edge? One hundred percent. Yes sir."

Four days after Charla's murder, there was still no sign of Darren.

Reno investigators, working with the FBI, were tracking possible sightings in Mexico; a couple of unverified reports came in at a resort in San Jose del Cabo, which would have been familiar territory for Darren, since he'd been there the year before for a swinger's convention.

Newspaper reporter Martha Bellisle went to Mexico trying to retrace Darren's steps and met hotel employee Virginia Delgadillo, who claimed she met a man fitting Darren's description.

An airline pilot staying at the same resort also reported he thought he had seen the fugitive; FBI agents soon descended on the hotel.

But Det. Chalmers says they were unable to determine whether Darren had been at the resort. Then, exactly one week after he disappeared, came the shocking announcement that Darren-hiding somewhere in Mexico-wanted to surrender.

While he was still in hiding, Darren's family retained defense attorneys David Chesnoff and Scott Freeman, who took over the surrender negotiations.

"Let's be clear on what we're dealing with here - your client Darren Mack did kill his ex-wife Charla?" Roberts asks.

"You won't get me to tell you that," Chesnoff says.

Asked if that's not in dispute, Freeman says, "I think everything in this case is in dispute."

But what's not in dispute is that they see Darren as a man pushed to the limit.

A series of e-mails Darren sent while on the run reveal a disturbing picture. For example in one message he holds himself up as a martyr for the father's rights movement writing, "Remember they want me as a sacrificial lamb. They want the pleasure of executing me."

After days of negotiations, Darren finally agreed to surrender, quietly turning himself in at a luxury hotel in Puerto Vallarta.

Darren was carrying $36,000 in cash, 20 credit cards, and a suitcase full of evidence. "A pair of shoes with some blood spatter, some other clothing with what appeared to be blood stains were in the suitcase," Chalmers explains.

Chalmers says the DNA profile of the blood stains matched Charla.

Darren, charged with the murder of his wife and the attempted murder of Judge Weller, pled not guilty to both crimes.

From the sound of it, Darren's attorneys may be making a case for self defense: "If our investigation shows that this woman was violent and could get angry and do things that were inappropriate, that may actually raise the question of self defense," Chesnoff explains.

Darren hinted at this in an e-mail he sent to Reno D.A. Dick Gammick while negotiating his surrender, claiming it was Charla who was the aggressor in that garage.

Darren's attorneys may also raise questions about his state of mind. "In conversations we've had with our client we have some concerns that he isn't grasping all the various legal issues that are required to be grasped to fully assist us in what we need to do in this case," Freeman says.

But co-prosecutor Robert Daskas thinks insanity will be a hard sell. "When you look at the object of his hostility, he went after the two people he had motive to kill. He went after Charla Mack with whom he was having a bitter divorce and custody battle and he went after Judge Weller, someone at least in Darren Mack's mind, who treated him unfairly," he says.

And the defense will need to work around that so-called "to do list," which could show premeditation.

As they gear up for trial, Darren's attorneys say they'll spare no expense to defend their client, but apparently it won't be easy: Chesnoff says Darren has no money and is in bankruptcy.

Released from jail and back home with his new wife and family, Small learned more about the case and eventually withdrew his support from Darren.

As Darren awaits trial for the murder of his wife, Charla, their daughter, Erika, is now the center of a new custody dispute between her grandmothers.

Just one day before Charla was murdered and Weller was shot by a sniper, Alecia Biddison was out target practicing with her new boyfriend.

She noticed he was a pretty good shot. His name? Darren Mack.

They met online on a blog filled with scathing complaints about Weller; Alecia had had her own run-ins with the judge.

They knew each other just three months before Darren was accused of murdering Charla.

Alecia says it never even occurred to her that Darren could have been involved. "What came into my mind was, 'I've got to call Darren and tell him this. This is unbelievable.' I mean, we knew lots of people didn't like Judge Weller, and rightly so.'"

Alecia tried to call him but couldn't reach him, "I immediately text messaged him saying, 'Judge Weller's been shot. Call me.' And I didn't hear back from him."

Alecia never heard back from Darren that day, and by that afternoon she knew why: he was named a suspect in the Weller shooting on the news.

Her only fear at that point was whether she too was under suspicion since they'd been together just the day before at the shooting range. "So there was a decision made to call a friend of mine who is a sheriff, a local sheriff and ask him 'Well what do I do? Am I suspect? Do I go home?'" she remembers,

It was only then she heard that Charla had been found murdered. The next time Darren and Alecia saw each other was for a jailhouse visit several weeks after his return from Mexico.

Darren plans to testify at his trial about what drove him to kill Charla. He will tell a jury, as he told cable channel truTV, that he lived in fear of his own wife. "I even at one point called my friend and got his bullet proof vest and started to wear that anytime I was forced to meet with Charla alone," he told truTV.

He says it was she who attacked him when they were alone in the garage.

More than a year after Charla's murder and Weller's shooting, the trial was moved to Las Vegas due to the intense publicity in Reno.

Prosecutor Robert Daskas opened for the state. A big part of the state's case would be recordings from Weller's courtroom, showing the bitterness of the Macks' divorce.

Their courtroom battle went on for over a year and half, mostly about money. At one point, Weller even threatened to throw Darren in jail when he violated a court order.

"Darren Mack is essentially, he's a spoiled brat. I mean the kid was raised with a lot of money. He got everything he ever wanted, and now he found himself in family court. Things weren't going his way. He wasn't getting what he wanted, and he took matters into his own hands," Daskas says.

Prosecutors believe the idea to kill Charla may have been planted a couple of weeks earlier when Darren sat for a cable access interview with a father right's advocate. Mack railed against Weller. "That is the family court system-my experience of it-under Judge Weller. It reminds me much more of what I studied in school about Nazi Germany," he said.

And then there was a chilling remark from host William Wagoner to Darren: "You're actually better off murdering your spouse and pleading insanity and be out in seven years and have your kids."

What was Darren's reaction to that comment?

"He didn't say anything, but you could see his facial reaction. It was almost like he absorbed it and realized it might be a good idea," Daskas says.

At some point following that interview, prosecutors say Darren took this advice a step further and actually wrote a "to-do" list for his crime spree.

"Charla was murdered in a very brutal way. She clearly suffered defensive wounds on her arms and on her legs. She was clearly drug from one area to another. We see blood spatter on the walls of the garage and on the floor of the garage," says special prosecutor Christopher Lalli.

"Charla Mack was 5'4", 120 pounds. Darren Mack was close to six feet, 200 pounds. Charla Mack didn't stand a chance," Daskas says.

Referring to the Weller shooting, Daskas says, "Well the next question was 'Who fired the bullet?' Well if there's a common denominator between Charla Mack and Judge Weller, it's the defendant, Darren Mack. Certainly that doesn't prove he fired the shot. Several others things will."

When it was Darren's turn, defense attorney Scott Freeman opened with scenes of a very troubled marriage. "He thought he hit the lottery with this woman. Funny, smart, beautiful, physically fit," Freeman says. "Darren was not aware of the dark side of Charla prior to marriage. He was not aware of her ability to be physically violent and physically abusive towards Darren."

The defense spared the jury no detail in describing the Mack's marriage. "Charla had an unusual sexual appetite. She liked women. She liked to swing with men and women," Freeman says. "She could be kind and giving in public. She could be violent and abusive at home. It was too much for Darren to take."

Darren told friends he started carrying a knife and a gun for protection, yet in their last court appearance it was Charla who said she was afraid. "He gets so angry and so whipped up that I don't feel comfortable right now knowing personally where I live," she said.

Darren's defense reveals his version of what happened on the morning he and Charla were face to face in the garage. "Charla arrived about 9:15," Freeman says. "Charla begins to threaten. And the rubber band starts to pull. The name calling from Charla began. The terrorist split personality reared its evil head. She transferred into pure hatred."

According to Darren, the fight escalated and when he turned his back on her. He says Charla knocked him to the ground and says that's when the gun he was carrying fell out of his pocket.

"She was going to punch him on the left side of his face. But Darren gets up and pushes back," Freeman says.

Darren says as Charla stumbled backwards she stepped on the gun. He claims she picked it up and aimed it right at him. "'Charla give me the gun,' Darren says. 'It's loaded.' Charla looks at the gun. Pulls the hammer back, smiles and fires. Just like that, the rubber band breaks," Freeman explains.

Darren claims the gun had misfired, which may or may not explain why there was no evidence of gun play. And this is the first time that prosecutors heard anything about a gun in the garage.

According to Darren, Charla tried to pull the trigger again, but this time he was ready for her with his knife. "They're both struggling on the ground. Darren plunges the knife into her neck once. Charla's violence has stopped," Freeman says.

Defense attorney David Chesnoff picks up Darren's story from that morning's crime spree. "He's like a soldier. He's a soldier for a just cause. That's how he sees it," Chesnoff says. "Everything is happening basically on automatic pilot. Which is consistent with somebody suffering from the delusions that Darren Mack was suffering at the time that he went and shot Judge Weller."

The defense says Darren went into that delusional state of mind after Charla allegedly put the gun in his face. "Darren thought that Charla slept with Judge Weller. It's a delusion I hope! We'll ask Judge Weller when he's here," Chesnoff says.

Chesnoff says they will prove Darren was still delusional when he managed to hit Weller in a single shot from 170 yards away. "It's a symptom of the disease. He thinks he's onto something that the rest of us don't get."

Darren's attorneys were trying a unique defense strategy: self defense in the murder of Charla, and insanity for the attempted murder of Judge Chuck Weller.

Despite the horrible details revealed at trial, Darren still has supporters, like Garret Idle, who met Darren through a divorce support group.

Asked how he was treated by Judge Weller, Garret says, "Like a piece of garbage. He told me if I couldn't pay my child support, you know, doing my career line of work now, that I should go flip burgers. 'Go flip burgers.' Excuse me?" he says.

And Alecia claims Weller crossed the line with her too when she was before him for that custody dispute. "He was unprofessional. He was rude. And he made highly inappropriate comments," she claims.

At the time, Alecia was a captain in the Army and says Weller accused her of being upset because her child's father moved on. "I took offense to the statement that I was chasing a lieutenant colonel and I was just bitter about not getting myself a lieutenant colonel and I needed to get over that. And I needed to get on with my life."

But prosecutor Daskas says Weller is an easy target. "Family court judges by the nature of their work are always gonna make one side unhappy."

As his friends see it, Darren's own frustrations led him to that parking garage to send Weller a message. "I think he just wanted to injure him and to expose his courtroom, his corruption," Garret says.

"What do you make of Darren Mack's claim that he didn't intend on killing Judge Weller? Do you believe that?" Roberts asks.

"No," Daskas says. "I think that's Darren Mack's ego because he didn't kill him."

In a rare turn of events, Weller finds himself on the witness stand. There, he talks about the critical blogs.

Concerned, Weller approached the head of the group and asked him about the negative blogs. "'Why is this happening?' And he said, I thought Darrell, but perhaps he said Darren, and he told me that Darren Mack was behind it," Weller testifies.

Weller remembered this conversation and gave police the details from his hospital bed. The name he provided to detectives was "Darrell Mack," but Weller says he was thinking of Darren.

The defense cross-examines the judge, and they begin by questioning his knowledge of the divorce case. "You would agree that you've become a lot more familiar with this particular divorce then you actually did when the divorce was occurring. Isn't that fair Judge Weller?" Chesnoff asks.

"No," Weller replies.

"Well you didn't know Mr. Mack's first name and he'd been in front of you for a year," Chesnoff says.

"Sir, because I didn't know his name doesn't mean I wasn't familiar with the divorce, I was making decisions on the divorce," Weller says. "I'm diligent about my job, sir. I review the file before I go to court."

Asked if he treated Darren differently than other people in his courtroom, Weller says, "No."

And then the defense tries to show just how delusional Darren was, by asking Weller if he'd been sleeping with Charla.

His response? "No, sir."

"There's no evidence to suggest there was any relationship between Judge Weller and Charla Mack, no," Daskas points out.

Daskas says Weller was fair to Darren.

"And I don't think you just have to take our word for it. I mean if you watch the videos yourself, particularly the last time those two are in court," Lalli adds.

But Garret Idle says the tapes don't tell the whole story and unless you've been through it, you cannot truly appreciate how it can drive someone to the edge. "Looking at the whole system from outside in, it almost makes sense. Almost," he says. "Well, why should one person have to just completely be bankrupt by a court decision and, you know, have to spend all their assets on their ex? It doesn't seem right."

But even his number one supporter, Alecia, concedes Darren's approach was probably not the best way to bring attention to the cause of judicial reform. "It did create a huge speed bump," she concedes.

Alecia says that won't stop her fight to try and improve the family court system, and it definitely wont stop her from fighting for the man she loves. She beliefs Darren was defending his life.

Sixteen months after Charla's murder, it was the defense's turn. His family and friends gathered for the first day of the defense's case.

But over the weekend, there had been a change of plans. Instead of taking the stand, Darren took a deal, admitting to murdering Charla and in return having a better shot at parole.

As part of the plea deal, Darren also admitted there was enough evidence to find him guilty of the attempted murder of Judge Weller.

"Shooting at the judiciary is not the proper form of political redress," he said in court. But in the same breath, he also managed to take a parting shot at Weller by praising Judge Herndon. "I really appreciate your honor's integrity...I have much at stake, it's been a pleasure to have somebody who really takes their job seriously."

And in a private meeting, he also thanked the men who were trying to convict him, Robert Daskas and Christopher Lalli. "Darren Mack shook our hands and thanked us for being professional, for acting like gentlemen," Daskas remembers.

Asked what that meeting was like, Daskas says, "A bit surreal."

But things were about to get even more surreal. Just three weeks later, Darren announced he had fired his attorneys and wanted to withdraw his guilty plea.

Darren alleges his attorneys were just in it for the money. "It was money until they got the money and then take the deal 'cause we have no hope," he said in an interview.

Chesnoff and Freeman were out, and local Reno attorney William Routsis was in. His first order of business was to try and get Darren a whole new trial.

Routsis claims Chesnoff and Freeman had coerced Darren into pleading guilty and that Darren had agreed because he was confused, sleep deprived and dehydrated. So two months later, Judge Herndon hauled everyone back into a Reno courtroom to hear arguments for a new trial.

This time, the star witnesses were Darren's former attorneys, who took the stand to defend themselves and the dual strategy of self defense and insanity.

"You're not competent to argue self-defense if you're insane. It's a fraudulent defense," Routsis says.

But Chesnoff explains that it was Darren who insisted on the split defense.

"Am I correct that Darren Mack is the one that said 'I'm not going with an insanity defense on Charla...this was self defense?'" Routsis asks.

"There's no question about that," Chesnoff replies.

"And you did not think that was a smart thing to do?" Routsis asks.

"No, because he came to the garage with a knife and gun in his pocket!" Chesnoff says.

By calling his former lawyers to the stand, Darren waived his right to attorney-client privilege, so what he had told them could now be used against him.

"There were actual police reports that Darren had solicited an individual in Clark County to kill Charla Mack and a family court judge," Lalli points out.

The damning revelations from former defense attorney David Chesnoff kept on coming. "Darren, in preparing his testimony, had told us after he stabbed her he put his knee on her head. And she was gurgling. When he told that to us in preparing for his testimony, I got physically ill."

Darren's case continued to unravel as Scott Freeman reluctantly takes the stand. Under oath, Freeman is forced to reveal the fact that Darren never mentioned a gun in their initial conversation about what happened in the garage.

Darren later told Freeman that he had thrown the gun into a dumpster but when Freeman went to look, there was no dumpster and therefore no gun.

Darren finally gets his chance on the witness stand. He insists he acted in self defense and was coerced and confused when he took the murder rap.

Asked if he told his lawyers he was sleep deprived, Darren says, "Yes, I did. ...I didn't say it in those words but I said I wasn't getting much sleep."

"Did you tell your lawyers you were dehydrated?" Lalli asks.

"I told them I was very thirsty," Darren replies.

After three days of testimony, it's time for closing arguments, and Routsis makes a final plea to get Darren another chance.

But the judge rules against Darren's motion to withdraw the plea.

Before Darren is sentenced, both families have a chance to speak. Darren's son from his previous marriage tries desperately to convince the judge there's another side to his father. Then Charla's family has their turn.

Darren is also given one last opportunity to speak, and he does for three hours, still insisting he acted in self defense. Throughout the course of the entire trial, Darren never uttered the words so many had hoped to hear: that he was sorry about the death and the shooting of the judge.

Darren will serve at least 36 years for his crimes. He will be 83 years old before he is eligible for parole.

Judge Herndon offered advice to the grandmothers, who are left to raise the lone survivor of this terrible ordeal, Erika, now 10 years old. "Hopefully you don't raise an angry and spiteful child who doesn't know who in her family to trust. She needs to be raised with hugs and kisses and not talking bad about ach of those people," he says. "A child without her mother and her father for a great number of years is gonna need a lot of love from both sides of the aisle."

Darren Mack is appealing his murder conviction, claiming he pled guilty under duress. He is also appealing a $590 million wrongful death judgment awarded to Charla's estate and their daughter Erika.

Judge Chuck Weller filed a personal injury lawsuit seeking damages from Mack. Mack claims he has no money left.



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