DENPASAR, Indonesia — An American woman convicted of helping to kill her mother on Indonesia’s tourist island of Bali in 2014 walked free from prison Friday after serving seven years of a 10-year sentence and will be deported to the United States.
Sheila von Wiese–Mack, 62, from Chicago, found the badly-beaten body inside the trunk a taxi leaving the St. Regis Bali Resort, August 2014.
Heather Mack was just 19 years old and was a couple of weeks pregnant. Tommy Schaefer (then 21) found them at a Hotel about 10 km (6 miles) away from St. Regis.
Police said the hotel’s CCTV showed the couple had argued with the girl’s mother in the lobby of the hotel shortly before the killing, which is alleged to have taken place inside a room in the hotel.
An Indonesian court sentenced Mack to 10 years in prison for assisting Schaefer in her mother’s murder and stuffing the body in a suitcase. Schaefer was given an 18-year sentence.
Stella Schaefer, Stella’s daughter, was born just before her parents were arrested in 2015. She was allowed to stay with her mother at Kerobokan female prison, Indonesia, until Stella turned 2. Mack then gave custody to her little girl to an Australian woman, until Mack’s release.
Mack and her mother had a troubled relationship, with officials confirming police had been called to the family’s Oak Park, Illinois, home dozens of times.
Robert Bibbs (a distant cousin to Schaefer) pleaded guilty at the trial to planning the murder in exchange for Mack’s $50,000 inheritance. The sentence was increased to nine years the following year.
Mack, now 26, was escorted through a crush of reporters outside the Kerobokan Female Prison in Denpasar, the Bali provincial capital, into a waiting car that took her to an immigration office near Bali’s international airport on Friday morning.
Wearing a mask, sunglasses and an immigration deportee’s orange vest, she made no comment to reporters except to say, “Oh my God… you’re insane!” from behind the car’s window.
Mack’s friends were seen welcoming Mack outside of the prison. Oshar Putu Malody Suartama was an Australian woman, married to a Balinese, and who had been raising Stella.
Mack’s sentence was shortened by a total of 34 months due to reductions that are often granted to prisoners on major holidays because of their good conduct, including a six-month remission of sentence awarded during Indonesia’s Independence Day in August, said Lili, the prison chief warden, who goes by a single name.
Lili stated that Mack is entitled to a sentence reduction under Indonesian laws for good behaviour. Mack also participated in activities organized by correctional officers such as teaching dance and organizing fashion shows with designs from inmates.
She described that Mack was a bit shocked, sad and frightened when she was about to leave, “but we all cheered her on and reassured her that everything would be all right.”
“Heather used to say that prison has changed her life a lot, she loves Indonesia and the people who have surrounded her all these years,” Lili said, “She will miss us so much and so do we here.”
Mack, she said, will be detained at the Immigration Office while they wait for their flight to the U.S.
Mack, now 6, can be reunited under Indonesian law with her daughter upon her release.
Yulius Benyamin Seran, Mack’s Indonesian lawyer, stated earlier that Mack had not been able to see the child for around 20 months due to the interlocking of prison visits in the Coronavirus pandemic. He asked the Indonesian authorities to allow the girl to stay with her foster family, to avoid any media attention.
A deported alien will not be allowed entry into Indonesia under Indonesian law for a period of six months.
Karmini reported from Jakarta in Indonesia.