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Chicago Woman Convicted of Brutally Murdering Mother, Stuffing Body in Suitcase in Bali Is Released from Prison

Heather Mack

Heather Mack

A Chicago woman, infamously convicted of helping her boyfriend brutally kill her socialite mother in a luxury Bali hotel room before hiding the victim’s body in a suitcase and attempting to flee, was released from prison Friday. Heather Mack stepped out of Indonesia’s Kerobokan prison a free woman after serving seven years of a 10-year sentence for the 2014 murder of her mother, 62-year-old Sheila von Wiese-Mack.

A then-18-year-old Mack and her then-boyfriend Tommy Schaefer were arrested by Indonesian police in Aug. 2014 after authorities discovered Wiese-Mack’s body stuffed in a suitcase and left in the trunk of a taxi parked in front of the upscale St. Regis Bali Resort.

CCTV footage from the hotel reportedly showed Shaefer and Wiese-Mack arguing in the hotel lobby. Hours later, Schaefer, then 21, beat Wiese-Mack to death by repeatedly hitting her in the head with a fruit bowl. Mack, who was pregnant at the time, then reportedly helped wrap her mother’s remains in a sheet and stuffed the victim’s body in the luggage. Mack and Schaefer placed the suitcase in the trunk of the taxi before fleeing. The cab driver reportedly noticed blood leaking from the luggage and alerted police. Authorities arrested the couple later that evening at a hotel approximately six miles away from the St. Regis resort.

Schaefer would later admit to killing Wiese-Mack, though he maintained that the killing was in self-defense. He said the the victim attacked him after learning her daughter was pregnant. Schaefer was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Wiese-Mack and her daughter reportedly had a troubled relationship. Law enforcement authorities were called to their home in the upscale Oak Park, Illinois suburbs at least 86 times between 2004 and 2013.

Mack was sentenced to 10 years in prison by an Indonesian court, but her sentenced was cut by 34 months due to good behavior, Kerobokan’s prison warden told The Associated Press.

Warden Lili—who only goes by the single name, which is common in Indonesia—reportedly told the AP that Mack was very involved in the facility’s programs; she taught dancing classes, and organized fashion shows featuring clothing designed by inmates.

“Heather used to say that prison has changed her life a lot, she loves Indonesia and the people who have surrounded her all these years. She will miss us so much and so do we here,” Lili said, adding that “we all cheered her on and reassured her that everything would be all right.”

Amrizal, the chief of the Bali immigration office for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, told the AP that Mack will spend several days at the Immigration Detention Center until her travel itinerary back to the U.S. is finalized.

In an August interview with The New York Post, Mack said that she was concerned about returning to the U.S. because she was afraid of how people would treat her 6-year-old daughter Stella Mack, who was born in the Bali prison during Mack’s highly publicized criminal trial.

“I am fearful and nervous of returning to Chicago. I’m not worried about the idea that people cannot understand the tragedy for my sake. But I’m nervous for [my daughter] Stella. I’m scared that if she comes back to the States with me, she will be exposed to what happened,” Mack said in an interview with The New York Post. “I do not want anyone shoving a camera into Stella’s face. I know that it will happen to me but I will do my best to protect Stella from that trauma.”

Mack also told The New York Post that her daughter still didn’t know why her mother has been in prison since she was born.

“I absolutely regret what happened. I loved my mom — I still do,” Heather Mack reportedly said. “She wasn’t evil, and she didn’t deserve to die the way she did. I didn’t kill her for money. It was for my freedom and Stella’s freedom, or so I thought at the time. I think of her a thousand times a day.”

Under Indonesian law, Stella was allowed to live with Heather in prison until she was two, at which point she was placed in the care of a foster mother.

[image via YouTube screengrab]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.