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‘Suitcase killer’ Heather Mack pleads for leniency in US over mother’s Bali murder

Heather Mack and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer murdered her mother Sheila von Wiese-Mack at a luxury Bali resort in 2014

Andrea Cavallier
Monday 15 January 2024 18:46 GMT
Woman’s body found in suitcase

A Chicago woman who helped her boyfriend kill her mother and stuff the body in a suitcase while on vacation at a luxury Bali resort nearly a decade ago is pleading for leniency.

Heather Mack, 28, was infamously dubbed the “suitcase killer” after she and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, then 21, bludgeoned her socialite mother Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62, to death and stuffed her body in a suitcase.

After serving seven years in an Indonesian jail for murder, Mack was extradited to the US where she was arrested and hit with fresh charges of conspiracy to murder in November 2021.

Prosecutors have said that Mack, then 18 and pregnant, covered her mother’s mouth in a hotel room while Tommy Schaefer bludgeoned Wiese-Mack with a fruit bowl.

In June, she pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to kill Wiese-Mack to get access to a $1.5 million trust fund.

Now, federal prosecutors in Chicago are recommending a 28-year prison sentence for Mack, which is considerably more time behind bars than her defence lawyers are expected to ask for when she’s sentenced next week.

Mack’s lawyers are seeking a 15-year prison term – but with credit for seven years spent in the Indonesian prison for her 2015 conviction of being an accessory to Wiese-Mack’s murder, the Associated Press reported.

Heather Mack, 28, was infamously dubbed the “suitcase killer” after she and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, then 21, bludgeoned her socialite mother Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62, to death in 2014 (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Separately, she would automatically get credit for more than two years spent in custody in Chicago since her return to the US.

“For the taxpayers to incur the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to incarcerate Ms Mack for an extended period of time within the BOP is particularly unnecessary,” attorney Michael Leonard said in a recent court filing, referring to the US Bureau of Prisons.

They also stated that it was “unwarranted” to keep Mack in prison longer after co-conspirator and her boyfriend’s cousin Robert Bibbs received a nine-year sentence for helping to plot the murder.

The plea agreement calls for a sentence of no more than 28 years. As part of the plea deal, two other charges against Mack will be dropped at the end of the sentencing process.

However, in a filing Wednesday, prosecutors said the recommended sentence “is warranted and sufficient, but not greater than necessary to serve a just and appropriate punishment for Mack’s heinous crime”.

The government is also seeking five years of supervised release for Mack, a fine of $250,000 and restitution of $262,708, the Associated Press reported.

The case garnered international attention in part because of photographs of the suitcase Wiese-Mack was placed in, which seemed too small to hold an adult woman’s body.

“The murder of Von Wiese at the hands of the defendant and Schaefer was vicious,” federal prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo earlier this week.

“The evidence indicates Von Wiese struggled to stay alive, meaning that, in the last moments of her life, she realised that her daughter, and only child, was responsible for her death.”

Prosecutors have said Mack and Schaefer planned the killing for months. They also said they had video evidence that showed both Mack and Schaefer trying to get the suitcase with Wiese-Mack’s body inside it into an Indonesian taxicab.

“Von Wiese had been worried that Mack would one day kill her, and it is hard to fathom the physical and emotional pain Von Wiese endured in the final moments of her life.”

Prosecutors argue that the murder was Heather Mack’s idea (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Prosecutors said in Wednesday’s filing that “Mack was the driving force of the conspiracy which resulted in the murder of her mother”.

“First, murdering Von Wiese was Mack’s idea, and something she explored as early as February 2014,” the filing read.

“Mack then solicited codefendant Schaefer’s assistance. In February 2014, Schaefer confided in a mutual friend using Facebook Messenger that Mack wanted to kill her mother. Specifically, Schaefer confided to his associate that Mack offered Schaefer $50,000 to find someone to murder her mother.”

Schaefer was convicted of murder and remains in Indonesia, where he is serving an 18-year sentence. He is charged in the same US indictment.

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