Crime and Courts

Freed From Indonesian Prison, US Woman Who Killed Mom in Bali ‘Suitcase Murder' Indicted By Feds

Heather Mack served seven years in an Indonesian prison before she was released in late October

SONNY TUMBELAKA / AFP via Getty Images

A Chicago woman who served more than seven years in an Indonesian prison for killing her mother at a luxury resort on the island of Bali has been indicted on murder conspiracy charges in the United States and taken into federal custody.

FBI agents took Heather Mack, 26, into custody on her arrival at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Wednesday morning, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago

Mack has been charged with conspiring to kill her mother Sheila von Wiese-Mack in a U.S. indictment that was unsealed Wednesday. Also charged is Mack's former boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, who was also convicted of murder in Indonesia and is still imprisoned there.

With the indictment in which they are charged with conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, Mack and Schaefer are also charged with obstruction of justice in the three-count indictment.

At an arraignment on Wednesday afternoon, Mack pleaded not guilty to the charges and U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle ordered that she remain in custody until a detention hearing on Nov. 10.

Brian Claypool, Mack’s attorney, said Wednesday that the federal charges are “clearly a witch hunt” in response to public pressure after Mack’s release from prison.

Speaking by phone from California, Claypool said he will ask the court to throw out the new charges, arguing that conspiracy was included in the charges that Mack was convicted of in Indonesia.

“The U.S. government had a choice to make in 2015,” he said. “They could have fought to extradite ... and try her in the U.S. court. They didn’t do that.”

Mack’s daughter, Stella Schaefer, who is 6 years old, was on the plane with her mother, according to Claypool, who said the little girl was “excited” about her first trip to the United States. He declined to say who took custody of the girl when FBI agents took Mack away but said she was not handed over to child protective services. Court records show a Cook County probate judge issued an emergency order Tuesday appointing one of Mack’s attorneys, Vanessa Favia, as the girl’s guardian. Favia could not be reached for comment.

Schaefer’s mother said she was angry that she was not given custody of her granddaughter.

“The lawyers don’t need custody,” Kia Walker told reporters at the airport. “Stella has family here. She has me. I want my granddaughter. I want this craziness to stop.”

According to the indictment, Mack flew from Chicago to Indonesia on Aug. 2, 2014, and Schaefer arrived on a flight from Chicago eight days later. On Aug. 11, Schaefer communicated in messages with Robert Ryan Justin Bibbs in Chicago about “different ways to kill Von Wiese." The next day, according to the indictment, Schaefer and Mack exchanged messages about “how and when to kill Von Wiese.”

According to the indictment, the two killed Von Wiese-Mack on or about that same day, then stuffed the body into a suitcase and loaded it into the trunk of a taxi cab. It says Mack and Schaefer tried to cover up what they had done by “removing items of clothing worn during the killing.”

Von Wiese-Mack's badly beaten body was later discovered in the taxi parked at the upscale St. Regis Bali Resort.

Heather Mack, the Chicago woman who garnered international headlines for helping to kill her mother and stuffing her body into a suitcase, was released from an Indonesian prison Friday after serving seven years, but some relatives continue to assert the sentence wasn’t harsh enough. NBC 5's Chris Coffey reports.

In 2016, Bibbs, who was identified as a cousin of Schaefer, pleaded guilty to helping to plan the killing in exchange for $50,000 from Mack’s expected inheritance. That cousin was sentenced the next year to nine years in prison. In 2017, the Chicago Tribune reported that court documents revealed the FBI was investigating whether others were involved in the the conspiracy.

According to the indictment, the murder “was part of the conspiracy that Heather L. Mack and Tommy E. Schaefer concealed, misrepresented and hid.”

Mack was almost 19 and a few weeks pregnant at the time of the killing. She and Schaefer, then 21, were arrested a day later at a hotel about 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the St. Regis.

The killing generated international attention, in part because the suitcase appeared too small to hold an adult woman’s body. The couple were convicted in 2015; Mack was sentenced to 10 years in prison and Schaefer received an 18-year sentence.

Indonesian officials announced in August that Mack would be released in October. She was freed from prison on Friday and deported to the United States this week.


This story has been corrected to show that Kia Walker is Schaefer’s mother.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us