Couple Convicted in Bali Suitcase Matricide

Apr 24, 2015

Americans Heather Mack and Tommy Schaefer were convicted by an Indonesian court of murdering Mack’s mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62, in August 2014 at a Bali resort. 

The duo faced a possible sentence of execution by firing squad. However, the court sentenced 19-year-old Mack to 10 years imprisonment and her 21-year-old boyfriend to 18 for his role.

The three-judge panel explained the young woman’s relatively light sentence by citing Mack’s having recently given birth to a baby, Stella. The panel wrote, “Her newborn baby badly needs a mother’s love and breastfeeding.”

The leniency also shown Schaefer was attributed to his expressions of remorse and polite conduct in the courtroom.

Under Indonesian law, female inmates at Bali’s Kerobokan Prison may keep babies with them until the infant’s second birthday. A lawyer who studied at the Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago and practices law in Indonesia, Ridarson Gallingging, says the United States Embassy in Jakarta will help find a home for Stella when she turns two.

Mack and Schaefer were arrested in August 2014 after Wiese-Mack’s corpse was discovered in a suitcase in the trunk of a taxicab.

They told the driver they would check out of their hotel and return to take his cab, asking if they could place a suitcase in the trunk, for which permission was granted.  Thereafter, the two went back to their hotel and slipped out a back door instead.

The driver, realizing they weren’t coming back, checked the luggage they'd left in his trunk and noticed blood leaking from the couple’s suitcase. He then called police who found Sheila von Wiese-Mack’s body stuffed inside it and apprehended Heather Mack and Tommy Schaefer.

At trial, Schaefer testified that von Wiese-Mack became infuriated when she learned her unmarried daughter was pregnant and attacked Schaefer, trying to strangle him.

He claimed he was defending himself when he repeatedly struck her with a metal fruit bowl.
Mack testified that she fled to a bathroom during the fight and hid there.

But prosecutors alleged the fight broke out over the hotel bill, with the defendants plotting to murder von Wiese-Mack because she opposed their relationship, and that, moreover, Mack had once told Schaefer he should hire someone to kill her mother.

Ironically, von Wiese-Mack planned the Bali vacation where she was slain in the hopes that it would help her and Mack patch up their volatile relationship.

Mom and daughter had been in heavy conflict for years, and some of those disagreements were relatively ordinary: Mack had been truant at school and had also stayed away from home for such long periods that her concerned mother had filed missing persons reports on her.

However, there had been a few battles that went well beyond the norm, for which von Wiese-Mack had filed criminal complaints against her daughter for battery and theft.

According to von Wiese-Mack’s sister, Debbi Curran, “My sister, when she was alive, was bruised, bitten and even had her arm broken by Heather.”

Heather Mack was hardly underprivileged; the family was wealthy and her father was James L. Mack, a renowned composer of both classical music and jazz.

An only child, she had a $1.56 million trust fund which she received after the famous musician died in August 2006 while vacationing with the family in Greece.

Defendants Mack and Schaefer have less than a week now to decide whether or not they will appeal the verdict. Appealing is risky though, because under Indonesian law they might win greater leniency -- or even stiffer sentences.


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