Heather Mack Sentenced to 26 Years in Chicago for Mother's Murder in Bali
Mack, often dubbed the 'suitcase killer,' faced a courtroom in Illinois where she received her sentence, accompanied by heart-wrenching victim impact statements characterizing her as a 'monster.'
The shocking crimes date back to 2014 when Mack conspired with her then-boyfriend, Tommy Shaefer, to kill her wealthy mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack. Prosecutors had sought a 28-year sentence for Mack, who had previously pleaded guilty to the murder in Indonesia in 2015, receiving a 10-year prison term before an early release in 2021. However, her return to the U.S. led to new charges, including conspiracy to kill a U.S. national and obstruction of justice.
In addition to the 26-year prison term, the court ordered restitution of $262,708. Sheila von Wiese-Mack, the victim, was married to composer James L. Mack, who passed away in 2006 during a family trip.
Mack, set to inherit a $1.5 million trust fund upon her mother's death, plotted the murder with Shaefer to pave the way for a new life together. She pleaded guilty in 2015, admitting to conspiring with Shaefer, who brutally attacked her mother in a hotel room while she covered her mother's mouth. The gruesome crime culminated with the victim's body being stuffed into a suitcase and abandoned in a taxi.
Shaefer was convicted of murder and is currently serving an 18-year sentence in Indonesia. During Mack's recent sentencing, victim impact statements, including one from Sheila's brother Bill Weise, labeled Mack's actions as 'morally reprehensible' and condemned her decisions post-crime as 'sickening.' Weise accused Mack of being a 'master manipulator' who is 'accustomed to lying.'
Pregnant at the time of the murder, Mack gave birth to a daughter, Stella, while serving her prison sentence in Indonesia. Weise pleaded in court to prevent Mack from parenting Stella, now eight years old, stating that the child does not want to be raised by her mother.
The court hearing focused on whether Mack should receive credit for the six years served in Indonesia. Mack's attorneys argued against the 28-year sentence sought by prosecutors, advocating for a reduced 15-year term. Mack's lawyer, Jeffrey Steinback, claimed that Mack was a victim of abuse by her mother and coerced into the crime by Shaefer. However, Mack distanced herself from these arguments during her sentencing, acknowledging her responsibility.
Allegations of a racist and unhappy home environment in Mack's household were raised during the hearing. Onita Mack, the sister of Heather's late composer father James, claimed that Sheila did not want black people inside their home. A counselor recounted a therapy session where Sheila used racial slurs against Mack.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys both emphasized Mack's troubled relationship with her mother, with claims that Sheila attempted to arrange an inappropriate marriage for Mack. Despite this troubled history, prosecutors argued that there was no justification for the brutal nature of the murder. Prosecutor Frank Rangoussis detailed the painful death suffered by Sheila, who suffocated after repeated blows to her face.
The defense sought a sentence accounting for the seven years served in Indonesia, alongside two years in U.S. custody since her return. However, victim impact statements argued against leniency, highlighting Mack's changing explanations and excuses over the years. The government also seeks five years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine, and restitution of $262,708.
The case gained international attention due to the infamous images of the seemingly small suitcase in which Sheila's body was placed. Victim statements stressed the lasting trauma on family members, with a plea for Mack never to see the light of day again. The sentencing raises questions about credit for time served, restitution, and the lasting impact of this disturbing case.