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.

Listen to the 911 call

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.

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