Chicago, IL

The Suitcase Killer Returns to Chicago With Her Daughter

Natalie Frank, Ph.D.

Heather Mack, famed suitcase killer, who helped to kill her mother and stuff her in a suitcase, will be deported from Bali with her daughter and return to the U.S. today.
Heather Mack, dubbed the Suitcase Killer, returns to Oak Park, Il today with daughter after early releaseNews Amed

Heather Mack, the woman accused of helping to kill her mother and stuff her in a suitcase is scheduled to return to Chicago with her daughter today. The former Oak Park resident, convicted of the crime when she was 19 years old, was sentenced to a 10-year jail term but was released in October three years early for good behavior. Her then-boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, who was convicted for his role in the killing, was sentenced to 18 years and continues to serve his prison term.

Mack and Schaefer, were convicted for killing Mack's mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack. She was beaten to death with a metal fruit bowl after which the pair stuffed her body into a suitcase.

Schaefer testified that Wiese-Mack was furious at him when she learned that her daughter was pregnant, insulting him and demanding that her daughter get an abortion. He said that she had tried to strangle him during the argument at which time he hit her several times with the fruit bowl. Mack then helped him stuff her mother’s body into a suitcase.

Video shows Mack arriving with a luggage cart and Schaefer placing the suitcase on the cart. The recording also shows the two speaking with a taxi driver after which they abandoned the suitcase in the trunk of the taxi. They left through the back door of the hotel. They were found the next day about six miles away.

In 2017, Robert Bibbs who was a cousin of Schaefer’s, was sentenced to nine years in prison after pleading guilty to helping Schaefer and Mack plan the killing in exchange for $50,000 from Mack’s expected inheritance.

Mack reportedly had a problematic relationship with her mother. Officials have stated that police were called to the family’s home in Oak Park “dozens of times”. Von Wiese-Mack was said to have repeatedly filed and dropped charges against her daughter during her adolescence for violent behavior. On one occasion, Mack spent a week in the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center where she was placed on a psychiatric hold as the result of her violent outbursts.

A legal battle over Mack’s $1.56 million trust fund inherited from Mack’s late father had been ongoing in Chicago. Mack stated that she was convinced that her mother lied and falsified court documents in order to gain possession of the inheritance.

Mack was named sole beneficiary her father’s will while Mack’s mother was named as executor of his estate. According to court records Mack’s mother received $340,667 after legal fees for her share of a lawsuit settlement involving her husband’s death, with $500,000 being made a part of his estate which would have gone to Mack.

However, in 2011 a judge authorized Wiese-Mack to pay herself the remaining $500,000 as the "sole beneficiary" of her husband’s estate. A clerk in the County circuit court office stated that a transcript of that court proceeding does not exist. There was also allegedly other possessions, land and property that Mack claims was part of her father’s estate that her mother stole from her.

Although Mack’s trust lawyer claimed that her mother’s estate came from her father and therefore should not be forfeit due to the crime, Mack recently settled the lawsuit, and will receive nothing from her late mother’s estate. Her daughter Stella is the sole beneficiary.

Mack's uncle, Bill Wiese, has strongly criticized her early release, calling it a “travesty of justice.” He believes she should have served closer to 40 years in jail for killing her mother who was his sister.

Mack will be returning to the Chicago area with her daughter this evening. She had originally requested that Stella, now 6, be allowed to stay with her foster family in Bali to avoid unwanted media attention in the US. However, Indonesian authorities refused to allow the child to remain.

“Minors must be accompanied by their mothers when their mothers are deported. There is no policy that allows a mother to leave her underage child here,” said Amrizal, chief of the Bali immigration office.

Mack said her daughter didn’t know the reason her parents were in jail and feared that keeping the child unaware of her crime would be impossible in the U.S.

“I am fearful and nervous of returning to Chicago. I’m not worried about the idea that people cannot understand the tragedy for my sake. But I’m nervous for [my daughter] Stella,” Mack said. “I’m scared that if she comes back to the States with me, she will be exposed to what happened.”

Mack was pregnant with Stella when she was sentenced and the child was born in prison and raised there for the first two years of her life. After that, she was placed in foster care. Stella had not seen her mother for 20 months due to prison officials halting visits during the pandemic when the two were reunited for the trip back to the U.S.

After her release, Mack expressed regret about her part in the killing.

“I absolutely regret what happened. I loved my mom — I still do.”

See coverage of Heather Mack's release below.

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