Heather Mack Bali: Oak Park woman convicted of killing mother returns to Chicago, could face charges

Heather Mack boyfriend Tommy Schaefer struck Mack's mother with fruit bowl before pair stuffed Sheila von Wiese-Mack in suitcase

Michelle Gallardo Image
Wednesday, November 3, 2021
Heather Mack headed to Chicago after prison release
Heather Mack had planned to spend some time in Los Angeles, but the FBI dashed that hope. Could she be arrested again when she lands in Chicago?

CHICAGO (WLS) -- An American woman convicted of helping to kill her mother on the Indonesian tourist island of Bali and stuff the body into a suitcase was tightly escorted to the airport Tuesday for her deportation to the United States.

Heather Mack, 26, was released from prison on Friday after serving seven years and two months of a 10-year sentence. Her then-boyfriend, who was also convicted in the killing, was sentenced to 18 years and remains in prison.

The badly beaten body of her mother, wealthy Chicago socialite Sheila von Wiese-Mack, was found in a suitcase inside the trunk of a taxi parked at the upscale St. Regis Bali Resort in August 2014.

According to her attorney, Mack will land at O'Hare Airport at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, along with her 6-year-old daughter Stella. What will happen then is anyone's guess.

These were not her original plans; they were changed by the FBI last week who told her she could not go to Los Angeles as she wanted, and would instead have to return directly to Chicago.

RELATED: Heather Mack released from Bali prison after murder of mother Sheila von Wiese-Mack in 2014

Mack's attorney said he believes her FBI escort will take her into custody as soon as she lands in Chicago.

"They should have been coordinating with me about what's going to happen," said her American attorney Brian Claypool. "This should not be some big mystery tomorrow morning. I should know what's going on. And Heather should be prepared for what will happen."

Claypool argues the federal government can't charge Mack in connection with her mother's murder because she was already convicted and served time in Bali for that same crime. Legally, however, the possibilities are murky. Because while double jeopardy does not apply because the original sentence was in another country, US Code establishes that they won't prosecute someone charged and convicted of the same crime elsewhere.

"We don't believe that the U.S. attorney's office has legal authority to arrest Heather in Chicago tomorrow for a crime that she was already prosecuted for, and convicted, and spent significant time in jail in Bali, Indonesia," said her American attorney Brian Claypool. "Maybe they're looking at a conspiracy charge. Maybe they're looking at aiding and abetting. Maybe they're looking at something that they can argue is based on different conduct than the conduct that led to her conviction overseas."

The killing generated national and international attention for years, in part because of photographs of the suitcase that appeared far too small to hold an adult woman's body.

Mack, who was almost 19 and a few weeks pregnant, and her then-21-year-old boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, were arrested a day later after they were found at a hotel about 6 miles from the St. Regis.

Their daughter, Stella Schaefer, was born shortly before her parents were convicted in 2015. Under Indonesian law, she was allowed to live with her mother in her cell in Kerobokan female prison until she turned 2, when Mack gave custody of her young daughter to an Australian woman until her release from prison.

Until she was freed on Friday, Mack had not seen her daughter for about 20 months because authorities halted prison visits during the coronavirus pandemic.

Her attorney, Yulius Benyamin Seran, said earlier that Mack had asked for the girl, who is now 6, to remain with her foster family to avoid media attention in the U.S. However, Indonesian regulations refused.

An emergency guardianship hearing was held in circuit court Tuesday afternoon to determine what will happen to Mack's daughter when she lands in Chicago. A judge granted a request for her to be placed with a person of the family's choosing until her mother's fate is clear.

But that may not be the end of the story. Not only does the six-year-old already have a foster mother who has been caring for her for the last four years, the girl's paternal grandmother is getting ready to sue for guardianship as well

"She has maintained a relationship with Stella. She has had regular contact with her. Kia tried to get guardianship before, when Stella was born," said Michael Goldberg, paternal grandmother's attorney. "Kia loves her granddaughter. She wants what's best for her. She stands ready, willing and able to care for her and to love her and to be there for her."

Mack's sentence was shortened by a total of 34 months due to reductions that are often granted to prisoners on major holidays because of good conduct.

After being released, Mack stayed at an immigration detention center for four days while waiting for her flight tickets and travel documents to be ready.

She was closely escorted by immigration officers to Bali's airport for a flight to Jakarta.

Mack reportedly had a troubled relationship with her mother, with officials in the U.S. confirming that police had been called to the family's Oak Park, Illinois, home dozens of times.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.