A Chicago woman accused of conspiring to kill her mother and placing her body in a suitcase while on vacation in Bali nearly a decade ago pleaded guilty Friday in federal court.
Heather L. Mack, 27, pleaded guilty in US District Court in Illinois to conspiring to kill a US citizen in the 2014 death of her mother, Sheila A. Von Wiese, according to court documents. The other two charges brought against her in 2017 — conspiracy to kill in a foreign country and obstruction of justice — were dropped as part of a plea deal with prosecutors, according to Michael Leonard, one of her attorneys.
Ms. Mack and her then-boyfriend Tommy E. Schaefer, were both convicted in Indonesia of felonies related to the deaths. Ms. Mack was released after seven years and returned to Chicago in 2021, where she remains in custody. Mr. Schaefer, sentenced in 2015 to 18 years, remains in prison there.
The maximum penalty for conspiring to kill a US citizen is life in prison. Ms Mack’s lawyers, however, are hopeful that the plea deal they’ve reached with federal prosecutors will result in a prison sentence of no more than 28 years, and possibly even less. The judge, who will sentence Ms Mack on Dec. 18, is not bound by the deal.
Ms Mack’s lawyers say she should credit the seven years she served in prison in Indonesia; the prosecution disagrees.
Speaking about Ms Mack’s reasons for taking the plea deal, Michael Leonard, one of her attorneys, said: “In this case, a couple of the counts received life sentences. « If the judge accepts the limit we propose – of 28 years – obviously the higher risks are eliminated ».
Relatives of Ms. Von Wiese released a statement following the plea hearing, saying they were « very relieved that the mastermind behind Sheila’s murder admitted guilt today, » the Associated Press reported.
“We will continue to be the voice of our sister Sheila throughout the sentencing process to ensure true justice is served,” they said.
In 2014, Ms Mack, then 18, arranged for Mr Schaefer to travel to Bali using her mother’s credit card, according to court documents. Text messages revealed that the couple had planned to kill Ms. Von Wiese.
Mr. Schaefer beat and killed Ms. Von Wiese with her daughter present, according to court documents, then the couple fled the hotel and left the suitcase with the body in a taxi.
In the days leading up to Ms. Von Wiese’s death, Ms. Mack told Mr. Schaefer she intended to share part of her inheritance with him after her mother’s death, according to court documents.
Mr. Schaefer replied, « I can’t wait to be rich. »
Mrs. Mack was also pregnant at the time of her mother’s killing. Her daughter is now in the care of a family member.
Mrs. Von Wiese’s late husband and Mrs. Mack’s father, James L. Mack, was a composer who worked alongside notable musicians including Nancy Wilson, Jerry Butler and Tyrone Davis, according to the Chicago Tribune. In previous interviewsMrs Mack had stated that she had a strained relationship with her mother.