Chicago native Heather Mack has been behind bars since the day her mothers bludgeoned body was discovered nearly 8 1/2 years ago, stuffed in a suitcase in the Bali resort where they’d been vacationing.
Mack was convicted in Indonesia of helping her boyfriend with the murder and served about seven years of a 10-year sentence, only to be arrested by the FBI when she landed at O’Hare International Airport in 2021 on federal murder conspiracy charges.
Now, after 13 months in custody at Chicago’s Metropolitan Correction Center, Mack is asking to be released on bond pending trial, arguing she is not a danger to the community or a risk of flight and only wants to spend time raising her daughter, Stella, who was born while she was imprisoned overseas.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly is scheduled to take up the issue at a hearing Thursday at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse in Chicago, where relatives of Mack’s slain mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, may offer testimony on behalf of prosecutors, who want her to remain in jail.
Mack, 27, has pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging her with conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country and obstruction of justice in the killing of her mother, whose bludgeoned body was found stuffed into a suitcase at the upscale St. Regis Bali Resort in August 2014.
Also charged with the same counts was her boyfriend at the time of the murder, Tommy Schaefer, who is still in prison in Bali.
Under federal legal standards, it would seem Mack stands little chance of winning release. The murder conspiracy counts carry up to life in prison if convicted, and in order for her to be granted bond, her lawyers would have to convince the judge she does not pose a risk of flight or a danger to others.
Mack’s attorneys, Michael Leonard and Jeffrey Steinback, waived the right to a bond hearing shortly after her arrest. But last month, they filed a motion arguing that “apart from the long-standing conflict that Ms. Mack had with her mother prior to her mother’s death, Ms. Mack had absolutely no record of presenting any danger to anyone.”
Prosecutors, however, argued in a motion this week that Mack has a history of violent and erratic behavior brought on by mental health issues. They also detailed the brutality of von Wiese-Mack’s slaying, including how Schaefer allegedly struck the victim with a heavy fruit bowl in their hotel room while Mack covered her mother’s mouth with her hand.
In a recorded phone call, with Schaefer’s cousin, Mack explained that she covered her mother’s mouth to make sure she died, “because Schaefer would have been in even bigger trouble if (von Wiese-Mack) survived,” prosecutors wrote.
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“These and other admissions indicate that Mack didn’t just conspire to kill her mother, but was directly involved in her mother’s murder,” prosecutors wrote in the motion.
Mack was convicted in 2015 of helping Schaefer 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 but was released early for good behavior. Schaefer, who admitted to fatally beating von Wiese-Mack, was sentenced to 18 years and remains behind bars.
The federal indictment, filed under seal in 2017, was made public at the request of prosecutors shortly before FBI agents took Mack into custody as she left the Delta Air Lines flight at O’Hare’s Terminal 5.
Federal prosecutors in Chicago also 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, 32, 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.
Meanwhile, a Cook County judge has been holding a lengthy custody hearing for Mack’s daughter, who is now 7. Last month, a cousin of Mack’s was given temporary custody of the girl, according to lawyers associated with the case.