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‘Suitcase killer’ Heather Mack is sentenced to 26 years in US prison for Bali murder

‘Suitcase killer’ Heather Mack is sentenced to 26 years in US prison for Bali murder

The woman who earned the unsavoury nickname the “suitcase killer” after murdering her mother at a luxury Bali resort and stuffing her body in a suitcase has now been sentenced to 26 years in prison.

Heather Mack, a 28-year-old from Illinois, pleaded guilty back in June to conspiring to murder her socialite mother Sheila von Wiese-Mack at the five-star St. Regis resort in Bali back in 2014.

Mack reached a plea deal with prosecutors in federal court in Illinois, pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to kill a US national so that she and her then-boyfriend Tommy Schaefer could gain access to a $1.5m trust fund.

Under the terms of the agreement, prosecutors recommended that she faced a maximum sentence of 28 years in US prison, with consideration given to the seven years that she had already served in an Indonesian jail. However, the charge carried a maximum penalty of life in prison and the judge hinted that he could ignore prosecutors’ request.

Under the deal, Mack was unable to file any appeals in her case.

On Wedneday, US District Judge Matthew Kennelly handed down the sentence, ordering Mack to spend 26 years in federal prison.

The sentence means she will not be eligible for release until she’s about 43 years old and Stella, the daughter that she gave birth to as a teen behind bars in Bali prison, will be an adult.

“Ms Von Wiese could have been the worst parent in the history of humanity. She didn’t deserve to die,” judge Kennelly said.

The judge also ordered Mack to pay around $260,000 in restitution to her mother’s estate, with an additional fine of $50,000.

Prosecutors had asked for the harshest possible sentence for what they described as the “heinous crime”, providing excruciating detail as to how Mack stuffed her mother’s five foot eight, 162-pound body in a suitcase.

Meanwhile, her defence sought a 15-year prison term, with credit for seven years spent in Indonesian prison.

Mack’s attorneys previously argued she had been “abused” by both her parents and Schaefer, though they acknowledged the abuse went both ways.

Before judge Kennelly handed down the sentence, the court heard heartbreaking impact statements from von Wiese-Mack’s family where they begged for the harshest possible sentence, described her as a “monster” and spoke of the trauma they experience when they are reminded of what the 62-year-old endured in her final moments.

Bill Wiese, Von Wiese-Mack’s brother – Heather Mack’s uncle, branded his niece a “monster”, “master manipulator” and “morally reprehensible”.

“If it were up to me, Heather would spend the rest of her life behind bars. She has lied so many times about her life and her mother’s murder that I’ve stopped counting,” he told the court.

“The world knows that justice was not done in Indonesia and is watching now. I pray that this court finally gives Sheila the justice that she so rightly deserves.”

Mr Wiese told the judge that his niece should not be given credit for pleading guilty after she had spent years lying about what really happened – and had allegedly bribed prison officials in Indonesia to get more favourable treatment there.

Von Wiese-Mack’s sister Debbi Curran loudly sobbed in the courtroom, as her daughter read out a prepared statement on her behalf in which she spoke of the the “horrific images” that flash through her mind every time she now sees a suitcase – bringing back memories of the way her sister’s body was treated by her killers.

The harrowing images are “impossible to erase during the day or night,” she said.

Heather Mack at sentencing in Bali (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Heather Mack at sentencing in Bali (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

While von Wiese-Mack’s family members became emotional and broke down in the courtroom, Mack was seen turning and mouthing “I love you” in their direction.

A statement was also read out from Lisa Hellmann – von Wiese-Mack’s niece and the legal guardian for Mack’s daughter Stella.

Ms Hellman asked the judge to give Mack the longest possible sentence for Stella’s sake so that the little girl “has the time, protection, safety and resources she needs to have a fully developed adult brain, and strong emotional armour before she has to face her connection to Heather”.

She told the judge that Mack had exploited her daughter – who was born behind bars in a Bali prison – and that the eight-year-old has told her therapist multiple times that she doesn’t want to speak to her mother.

Mack’s lengthy prison sentence now brings some sort of conclusion to the case that tore a family apart, shocked America and spanned two nations for the best part of eight years.

Sheila von Weise-Mack, 62, was found stuffed in a suitcase in Bali (Provided/Caxton Club)
Sheila von Weise-Mack, 62, was found stuffed in a suitcase in Bali (Provided/Caxton Club)

The tragic case began back in August 2014 when socialite von Wiese-Mack, 62, took her troubled daughter Mack – the 18-year-old daughter she shared with the late, famed musician James L Mack – on vacation to the St. Regis resort in Bali.

On 12 August, Mack and her then-boyfriend Schaefer, 21, bludgeoned von Wiese-Mack to death with the metal handle of a fruit stand.

Prosecutors say Mack covered her mother’s mouth with her hands while Schaefer beat her.

They then stuffed her body into a suitcase, hailed down a taxi and loaded it into the trunk of the car.

When they were unable to check out of the luxury resort – using her mother’s credit card – the couple fled the scene, leaving the bloodstained suitcase behind.

They were soon tracked down to a budget motel and arrested on suspicion of murder.

At the time of the murder, Mack was pregnant with Schaefer’s child.

Prosecutors revealed that she had flown her lover out on a $12,000 business-class ticket just hours earlier charged to her mother’s credit card. Surveillance footage later captured the trio arguing in the hotel lobby after he arrived.

Less than 12 hours after Schaefer flew in, von Wiese-Mack was dead.

Chilling text messages later surfaced showing how the couple likened themselves to the notorious duo Bonnie and Clyde and plotted methods of murder.

Heather Mack following her arrest in Indonesia in 2015 (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Heather Mack following her arrest in Indonesia in 2015 (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

“I also know what is in my control … I know what makes people tick … the witch … I know what make [sic] her tick … I’m with her so much … I know her habbit [sic]… how she acts … what she does at certain times … its like breaking out of jail … It takes several years of watching … I have been watching her routine … and I know what I do control … Im sneaky … Im smart … and I watch … trust bonnie … Dn’t make everyone else mistake and under estimate me,” Mack wrote, according to US court documents.

Oak Park Police records reveal that officers had been called to Mack’s home dozens of times due to incidents of domestic violence by the teenager against her mother.

Between 2008 and 2013, at least 35 police interactions were recorded including accusations that Mack broke her mother’s arm, bit and punched her. In 2013 – just over one year before her murder – von Wiese-Mack had confided in a detective that she feared Mack was going to kill her.

At their Indonesian trial in 2015, both Mack and Schaefer were both convicted of premeditated murder in Indonesia and narrowly avoided facing the firing squad. Mack was sentenced to 10 years in prison while Schaefer was sentenced to 18 years.

While behind bars, Mack gave birth to the couple’s daughter Stella in March 2015 (who she raised in prison for the first two years of her life before the child became the focus of international custody battles).

In 2017, Schaefer’s cousin Ryan Bibbs, then 24, was also convicted of conspiracy to kill von Wiese-Mack and sentenced to nine years in prison after it emerged that he had coached the two killers in different murder methods.

Mack was released from prison in Bali in October 2021 after serving seven years – three years early due to good behaviour – and was briefly reunited with her daughter Stella, then six, who she planned to begin a new life with.

But her newfound freedom was short-lived.

Five days later, the then 26-year-old was deported from the Indonesian island back to the US and was arrested by FBI agents as soon as she touched down on American soil at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.

She was indicted on two counts of conspiring to commit murder in a foreign country and one count of obstruction of justice. The indictment, which was filed in 2017 but remained sealed while she remained in Indonesian prison, also charged Schaefer with the same counts.

For the next two years, she was held behind bars in Illinois awaiting trial and fighting against the charges, insisting that she had served her time for her crime in Indonesia.

But this June, two months before her trial was set to start in August, Mack reached a plea deal with prosecutors to plead guilty.

Meanwhile, her lover Schaefer is still serving his 18-year sentence in Indonesia before he too will face charges on US soil.