Heather Mack, the notorious “suitcase killer,” was released Friday from an Indonesian prison after serving seven years.
Mack was 19 and a few weeks pregnant when she got her prison term by cooperating with her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, in the murder of Mack’s mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack.
Authorities said that the CCTV of an upscale hotel, the St. Regis Bali Resort, showed that Mack and Schaefer argued with von Wiese-Mack in the lobby of the hotel shortly before von Miese-Mack was killed, apparently within one of the hotel rooms. They were arguing about Heather Mack’s use of one of her mother’s credit cards to book a room for Schaefer.
Soon after, Schaefer beat Wiese-Mack to death with a fruit bowl at the five-star resort. The young couple then stuffed the victim’s body into a suitcase and abandoned the suitcase in the trunk of a taxi.
They didn’t flee very far. They were arrested the day after they left the St. Regis, at another hotel only six miles away.
A cousin of Schaefer, Robert Bibbs, helped plan the murder, in exchange for a promise of money that Mack expected to inherit. Three months before her death in Bali, Wiese-Mack had placed her estate, worth $1.56 million, in a trust to be used for the “health, support, education and maintenance” of her only child.
Bibbs pleaded guilty to this in 2016 and was sentenced the following year by a U.S. District Court judge in Illinois to nine years in prison.
The Indonesia courts treated Schaefer as the principal murderer and Heather Mack as the accomplice. They gave him a sentence of 18 years and her just 10.
She has served just seven of those years. She has been released now because she has benefitted from time-off for good behavior while in prison.
So Heather Mack, now 26, on Friday walked out of the Kerobokan Female Prison in the Bali provincial capital, Denpasar. She was wearing a mask, sunglasses, and the orange vest of an immigration deportee, not the tourist at a famously paradisiacal resort that she once was.
Heather Mack stepped into a car that was to take her to Bali’s international airport, saying nothing to the reporters present except “Oh my God … you’re insane!”
The daughter of Heather Mack and Tommy Schaefer, Stella Schaefer, was born in jail. shortly before her parents were convicted. Under Indonesian law Stella was allowed to live with her mother in a cell in Kerobokan prison through the first 2 years of her life. After those 2 years, Heather Mack gave Stella up to an Australian woman (the wife of a Balinese man) until her release.
That woman, Oshar Putu Melody Suartama, was seen outside the prison at the time of Heather Mack’s release, welcoming her. Stella was not seen.
Some of the relatives of Mack, on her deceased mother’s side, are shocked that the release has come as soon as it has. Bill Wiese, Sheila von Wiese-Mack’s brother, and Debbi Curran, her sister, released a joint statement that said that they are “still in disbelief and shock about the horrific and calculated way” that Wiese-Mack died.
Their view is that the text messages that were released at Bibbs’ trial “clearly show that she” [Heather Mack and not Tommy Scheafer], “was the mastermind of this ruthless murder.” They continued saying that “None of this makes any sense to our family or Sheila’s friends.”
Mack reportedly plans to return to the Chicago area with her daughter Stella. She hasn’t said with whom they will be staying when they get there, but she has said that her friends in the area have been supportive.
“I really miss my mom, and everything in Chicago will remind me of her,” Mack told the NY Post. “I’m sure it will be very confronting because I think of her every day and deeply regret what happened.”