A routine limo ride to The JCK Show ~ Las Vegas turned out to be a memorable trip for gemologist and appraiser Rodney Ackerman when his ride companion later appeared on national television as the main suspect in a murder.
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, Ackerman left his 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. “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” turned out to be Darren Roy Mack, the 45-year-old owner of Palace Jewelry & Loan Co., based in Reno, Nev., who was also attending the show. Mack was later arrested in the stabbing death of Charla Mack, 39, his estranged wife, and in the shooting of Reno Family Court Judge Chuck Weller, who was handling the couple’s divorce case.
Ackerman, 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 the associate. When he did speak to Mack, the discussion was mostly about Rolex watches.
“I was talking to his employee about steroids and baseball,” Ackerman says. “I talked to 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, Ackerman went through his business cards and disposed of Mack’s card. 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.
A week later he heard the name again while watching television with his wife 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.”
Ackerman says he was relieved that he met Mack before he became a nationally known suspect in a murder and an attempted murder—though he notes, “It’s really eerie to meet someone and have him go on a crime spree like that.”