Heather Mack sentenced to 26 years in federal prison for mother’s coarse Bali ‘suitcase’ murder

Heather Mack was sentenced Wednesday to 26 years in federal prison for helping to murder her mother at a Bali resort and stuff her bludgeoned body in a suitcase, sparking a sensational legal saga and led police on a trail back to suburban Chicago.

Mack, 28, who pleaded guilty last year to conspiring to murder a U.S. citizen on foreign soil, has already spent nearly 10 years behind bars for the August 2014 slaying of Sheila von Wiese-Mack, including about 7 years in a prison in Indonesia.

Depending on how much prior prison time Mack is given credit for, the sentence handed down by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly could mean Mack will not be eligible for release until she is more than 40 years old.

At the end of an emotional, four-hour hearing, Mack was asked if she wanted to address the court. She stood before the lectern, dressed in orange jail clothes and wearing dark eyeglasses, and apologized for her crime, her voice breaking as she said she still loves her mother.

“From the bottom of my heart, I’m sorry,” Mack said to her mother’s siblings and other relatives in the courtroom gallery. “I know that words are not enough for the damage I have caused. It breaks my heart. If I could take my pain away, I would.”

Mack said she knows “an apology is not enough.” She also said she’s grown up a lot in the past 10 years, becoming a mother herself. “I now understand the love my mother had for me,” she said.

Mack finished by saying she wants everyone to know “how much I miss and I still love my mother.”

“I miss her smile her love and most of all her holding me,” Mack said. After sitting down at the defense table, Mack looked at her aunt and uncle across the courtroom and mouthed the words, “I love you.”

At the outset of the hearing, von Wiese-Mack’s brother, Bill Wiese, read a lengthy statement to the court, calling Mack a cold and calculating sociopath and urging the judge not to believe her lies.

“Heather, your criminal actions killed my sister Sheila, but your morally reprehensible behavior did not stop on that day,” Wiese said. “You have never shown any remorse for your premeditated murder.”

Bill Wiese said he believes the $150,000 lump sum payment sent to Mack from her mother’s estate for her criminal defense in Bali was “not just used for legal fees,” but was instead “divided among her lawyer, the prosecutors, the judge, prison officials and Heather” and gave her special privileges in prison like time on release, access to phones and free roam of the prison grounds.

“Heather should not get credit for the time she served in Bali because her prison time was like a party,” he said.

“She truly hasn’t changed at all,” Wiese said. “If it were up to me, Heather would spend the rest of her life behind bars. Heather has used up all of her second chances.”

At the conclusion of his remarks, Bill Wiese said, “The world knows justice was not done in Indonesia and is watching now.”

Mack sat at the defense table throughout his statement, frowning slightly but otherwise not reacting.

Mack’s attorneys had asked for the minimum term of 15 years in prison, which would have made her eligible for release in as little as four years.

Prosecutors, though, asked for 28 years in prison for Mack, writing in a filing last week that she has shown little remorse and has continued to try to capitalize on her own infamy through tell-all book and entertainment deals. Such as sentence would keep Mack, originally from Oak Park, locked up for about 16 more years.

In addition to the prison sentence, Kennelly ordered Mack to pay about $260,000 in restitution to her mother’s estate and pay a $50,000 fine.

Mack was convicted in Indonesia in 2015 of helping her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer with the murder and served about seven years in prison, only to be arrested by the FBI when she landed at O’Hare International Airport in 2021 on a federal indictment that had been filed under seal while she was overseas.

Also charged with the same counts was Schaefer, who is still in prison in Bali. Mack’s plea agreement does not include any requirement for her to cooperate and testify against Schaefer.

Meanwhile, Mack’s self-described godmother, Diana Roque Ellis, wrote a letter to Kennelly posted on the court docket over the weekend in which she pleaded for leniency, saying she’s “seen no trace of this horrifically diabolical girl that Sheila had endlessly detailed throughout the years” and who has been demonized by the media.

“What I have come to know is a surprisingly rational, even keeled, fair-minded, well spoken, intelligent, lovely young woman who is (surprisingly again) essentially cheerful, good-natured, sympathetic and kind,” Ellis wrote.

Ellis also called out her slain friend, saying the abusive relationship between von Wiese-Mack and her daughter went both ways.

“It was mystifying as to how Sheila was always lovely, gracious and kind to me and her other friends and yet so unremittingly caustic to Heather,” Ellis wrote. “There would be brief interludes of ‘lovey-dovey‘ peace only to be followed by more fierce rancor and hurled invectives. Unfortunately, I recognized early on that neither Heather nor Sheila were both getting out of this downward spiral of crazy behavior alive.”

In their filing last week, prosecutors noted the particularly brutal nature of the crime, which was the culmination of years of physical and mental abuse inflicted by Mack. The trip to Bali had been von Wiese-Mack’s last-ditch attempt to rekindle their relationship, prosecutors wrote. Instead, Mack had already set the murder plot in motion.

“The evidence indicates von Wiese struggled to stay alive, meaning that in the last moments of her life she realized that her daughter, and only child, was responsible for her death,” wrote Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Marie Ursini and Frank Rangoussis, a special prosecutor with the Department of Justice. “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.”

Even after she was arrested and charged with murder, Mack continued to show no remorse, and was granted an almost celebrity status in prison in Indonesia, according to prosecutors. She was allowed to live with her daughter after her birth in 2015, was given access to cellphones interviews with media, and even allowed to attend parades and other events outside the prison walls.

Videos and photos taken of Mack during her time behind bars, show her “dressed and behaving as if she was in a nightclub, not a prison,” prosecutors wrote.

When the FBI came to interview the prison warden in 2016, Mack and Schaefer “barged into the meeting and yelled at the warden,” prosecutors revealed in the filing.

Mack denied she was trying to influence the interview, but prosecutors said the episode showed she had likely “used her status as a celebrity and the thousands of dollars from the trust (fund) to gain influence inside the prison.”

In asking for leniency, Mack’s attorneys, Michael Leonard and Jeffrey Steinback, wrote in their 37-page filing that she suffered abuse at the hands of her mother and father at a young age, and later was physically abused and mentally manipulated by her boyfriend, Schaefer, who was convicted of beating von Weise-Mack to death with a heavy fruit bowl stand.

“Ms. Mack painfully regrets the way that she treated her own mother, and of course regrets and is extraordinarily remorseful for her own pivotal role in Ms. von Weise’s murder,” the defense filing stated.

Mack’s attorneys also wrote that incarcerating Mack for a lengthy period of time would not only needlessly cost taxpayers millions of dollars, but also keep her from developing a strong bond with her young daughter, Stella, who was born while Mack was serving time in Indonesia and now being raised by a relative.

The allegations in von Wiese-Mack’s slaying are well known by now. Authorities alleged Mack conspired with Schaefer to kill her mother in order to gain access to a $1.5 million trust fund set up after her father’s death. Mack was sentenced to 10 years in prison in Indonesia for the crime but released early for good behavior.

In pleading guilty, Mack admitted to a horrific set of facts outlined in a lengthy plea agreement. Mack flew Schaefer to Bali using her mother’s credit card, and they texted each other repeatedly about their plan, right up until Mack and her mother were alone in their hotel room.

“i need your help,” Mack texted Schaefer, according to the plea agreement. “you could just put your hand over her and i could grab her body.”

“must knock her out,” Schaefer replied. “I’m finding something right now ... I’ll do it.”

Not long afterward, Schaefer entered the hotel room and beat von Wiese-Mack to death with the metal handle of a fruit bowl. An autopsy determined she suffered multiple facial and skull fractures and also had defensive injuries, the plea stated.

Together, Schaefer and Mack put the body in a suitcase, put the suitcase in the trunk of a taxi at the hotel. They tried to get away in the taxi, but the driver wouldn’t accept their fare; instead, they left the cab and abandoned the suitcase inside.

Mack has been held without bond at the Metropolitan Correctional Center since she was arrested by the FBI in November 2021 as she left a Delta Air Lines flight at O’Hare’s Terminal 5.

Schaefer, who admitted to fatally beating von Wiese-Mack, was sentenced to 18 years.

Federal prosecutors in Chicago had previously charged Schaefer’s cousin, Robert Bibbs, with helping in the murder plot. The FBI learned of Bibbs’ involvement after analyzing text messages found on Schaefer’s phone.

Bibbs, 33, is serving a nine-year prison sentence in Michigan for coaching the defendants on how to carry out the murder in return for a share of the anticipated multimillion-dollar estate. He is eligible for parole in 2025.

Mack’s daughter, now 8, has been placed with a relative in the U.S. after a lengthy and bitter custody battle in Cook County Circuit Court.