A routine limo ride to the JCK Show ~ Las Vegas turned out to be a memorable trip for a gemologist when the person he shared the ride with appeared on national television nearly a week later as the main suspect in the murder of his estranged wife and the attempted murder of a Reno, Nev., judge.
Gemologist and appraiser Rodney Ackerman was in Las Vegas assisting his wife, jewelry designer Carol Ackerman, who was exhibiting at the show. On the last day of the show, June 7, instead of leaving with his wife, Rodney decided to stay behind at the Monte Carlo Hotel where the couple was staying. He left the hotel at about 9:30 a.m. to catch a taxi to the Sands Convention Center.
“Carol and I knew it was going to be a slow day so I decided to hang out in the room for an extra hour and she took the rental car and went to the convention center to set up alone,” he told JCK Wednesday. “There was a short line but no cabs. Then there was this guy asking for anyone to share a limo over to the center. … I really don’t like to do that. … But I agreed and jumped in the limo with him and his associate.”
The “guy,” Rodney says, turned out to be Darren Roy Mack, the 45-year-old owner of Palace Jewelry & Loan Co., based in Reno, who was also attending the show. He is wanted in the Monday stabbing death of Charla Mack, 39, his estranged wife and in the sniper shooting of Reno Family Court Judge Chuck Weller, who is handling the couple’s pending divorce. As of Wednesday he remains at large and, according to media reports, law enforcement officials are searching for him in the San Francisco Bay area.
Rodney, an appraiser for Lux, Bond & Green, said that during their short limo ride, Mack spent most of his time on the cell phone, so he conversed primarily with Mack’s employee. When he did speak to Mack, the discussion was mostly about Rolex watches. “He sells some high-end stuff,” Rodney says.
“I sat next to him (Mack) and opposite his employee,” Rodney says. “He started in on his cell phone right away talking business. I was talking to his employee about steroids and baseball.”
Rodney continues, “I talked to him (Mack) about what he did and about a Rolex watch I wanted. He said he can’t sell it for the price I was offering. We arrived at the convention center, walked in, and I said have a safe trip back to Reno, and he said have a safe trip back to Connecticut. I did get his employee’s card and I gave him my card.”
After the show, Rodney went through his business cards and disposed of the card from Mack’s employee. However, he did take notice of the name of the eBay site the store operates: UCDEALSHERE Diamonds and Gems. “That stuck in my mind,” he says.
On Tuesday night he heard the name again while watching television with Carol in their Connecticut home.
“I was watching Nancy Grace on CNN,” he says. “I normally can’t stand her. She’s talking all about the crime and what a great marksman he is. Then they switch to the guy who was an investigative reporter. He mentions UCDEALSHERE. I turned to my wife and said, ‘I think I sat next to that guy in the limo.’ They showed his picture and I was sure that was the guy.”
Rodney says he was relieved that he met Mack before he became a nationally known suspect in a murder and an attempted murder.
“I was glad I met him before he killed his wife,” Rodney says. “No one is going to want to talk to me. It’s really eerie to meet someone and have him go on a crime spree like that.”
Palace Jewelry is a family owned company that was established in 1958. The company operates five stores in three states, with headquarters on the corner of Virginia and Plaza streets in Reno. In addition to the eBay site, the store operates its own Web site, www.palacejewelry.com.