Pawn Shop Owner Wanted for Killing Wife, Possibly Shooting Judge

Police continued searching Tuesday for a pawn shop owner suspected of killing his estranged wife and wanted for questioning in the shooting of a Reno judge involved with his divorce case.

Darren Roy Mack is the primary person of interest in the shooting of family court judge Chuck Weller. Reno police said Tuesday that he may be driving a silver Ford Explorer, but they added that Mack may have access to other vehicles.

The killing of Mack's wife at her apartment and the shooting of Weller at the courthouse where he worked apparently happened within hours of each other, police said. But they are unsure of which shooting happened first. The wife, Charla Mack, was 39 when she was killed. Her body was found in the garage of her apartment.

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"We'd like to get custody of Darren Mack," said Reno Deputy Police Chief Jim Johns said during a press conference Tuesday. "We will of course pursue all leads. It doesn't matter if they're in this city or another state."

Police shut down a six-block area Monday and searched for Mack, 45, after Weller was shot in the chest by an apparent sniper through the window of his third floor office in the Washoe County courthouse complex on the edge of the downtown casino district.

"None of the investigative leads at this point would indicate it's a random crime," Johns said. "It does appear this was the work of one individual, but police are still questioning others."

Weller, 53, who in past years gave legal advice on a local radio station and in a column in the Reno Gazette-Journal, was rushed to a hospital where he was reported in serious but stable condition as SWAT teams searched parking garages, high-rise construction sites and a neighboring movie theater.

Darren Mack "had recent dealings with the judge and the family court section" in his divorce, Johns said, calling it "an obvious connection." But he said police "do not have enough information to say he is a suspect" in Weller's shooting.

Flights were suspended for about an hour at Reno-Tahoe International Airport late Monday night and some planes were searched after a police SWAT team responded to a reported sighting of Mack's sports utility vehicle at an airport parking garage, but it turned out to be a false alarm, authorities said.

Airport spokesman Brian Kulpin said police responded with a large group of officers and that the entire airport was searched and will continue to be searched. "We're in a hyper state of vigilance," Kulpin said.

"The public has been very responsive" with clues, hints and tips, "and I would urge the public to continue to keep its eyes open for the location of Darren Mack," Johns added.

According to Washoe County District Court records, Charla Mack filed for divorce on Feb. 7, 2005. A two-day custody hearing was scheduled before Weller for Sept. 7 of this year and a mutual restraining order was signed in May 2005, according to court records.

Weller was shot in the chest "at least once" by a "high velocity projectile, possibly a rifle," Johns said. He was conscious "and talking with his family," Reno police spokesman Steve Frady said Monday afternoon.

Weller's administrative assistant, Annie Allison, was hit by bullet fragments in her arm and hip, but her wounds were superficial, and she was treated and released, Frady said.

Mack worked at a Reno jewelry store and pawn shop within a few blocks from the courthouse. Mack's photograph, along with his wife and three children, appears on a Web site advertising the sale of diamonds and other jewelry.

On the Web site, he wrote: "My name is Darren Mack, and I am the third generation owner of a small business in Reno, Nevada. My family has owned and operated small businesses in Nevada for 45 years."

Weller, a lawyer who graduated from Georgetown University Law School in 1977, was elected to the bench in 2004. "He's a nice guy and real hardworking," said Reno Justice of the Peace Harold Albright.

"The incident is shocking, but the risk is not shocking," said Darin Conforti, court administrator of Reno Justice Court. "We're well aware this is the inherent risk of trying to solve conflicts. Sometimes you don't solve them peacefully and people take the law into their own hands."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.