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‘Suitcase Killer’ convicted of murdering socialite mom in Bali will now reportedly plead guilty in US court

Heather Mack and her mother, Sheila von Wiese Mack (CBS News screenshots)

Heather Mack and her mother, Sheila von Wiese Mack (CBS News screenshots)

A 27-year-old Chicago woman who was sentenced to 10 years in an Indonesian prison for brutally killing her socialite mother in a luxury hotel while on vacation in Bali and hiding the body in a suitcase reportedly plans to plead guilty to federal charges of conspiring to commit murder.

Heather Mack, who infamously became known as the “Suitcase Killer,” spent seven years in Indonesia’s Kerobokan prison for the 2014 murder of her 62-year-old mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, before being released in October 2021 and sent back to the U.S.

Upon arriving at Chicago O’Hare International Airport on Nov. 3, 2021, federal agents took Mack into custody immediately after her flight landed.

Mack and her then-boyfriend Tommy Schaefer were both charged with conspiracy to commit murder and obstruction of justice in Wiese-Mack’s death. Schaefer was also convicted by an Indonesian court for killing Wiese-Mack and is currently still serving an 18-year prison sentence in that country.

Mack, who initially pleaded not guilty to the charges, on Tuesday confirmed reports published last week about her planned change of plea in an interview with the New York Post.

“We were offered a good plea. First, it was 15 to 35 [years]; now they are saying zero to 25 years, including time served,” she reportedly told the Post.

The convicted killer also addressed what was behind her change of heart regarding the plea decision

“I have served nearly ten years in prison. I felt that I had done my time, so I was gung-ho for trial. Now, after sitting for so long, I know what I have to do,” she reportedly told the paper. “I’m going to be a felon in America, and that is fine. I understand from [the U.S. government’s] perspective that, if I don’t plead guilty and they didn’t indict me, I wouldn’t be a felon. I could become a police officer and work for the government — I could carry a firearm on the street.”

Mack’s attorney, Michael Leonard, last week told The Associated Press that he’d been in negotiations with federal prosecutors for “several weeks” in advance of her scheduled Aug.1 trial date and that he anticipated proceeding with a change of plea hearing on June 15. However, he told the Post that no one but the judge knows what might happen during that hearing.

“The hope is that the judge will seriously consider the time she has already served and all the underlying circumstances of her life and her relationship with her mom,” Leonard reportedly said. “Any federal criminal case requires a constant reassessment of risk and reward. Balancing risk in terms of a potential sentence and trying to minimize the risk to yourself.”

Mack and Schaefer were arrested by Indonesian police in Aug. 2014 after authorities discovered Wiese-Mack’s body stuffed in a suitcase and left in the trunk of a taxi parked in front of the upscale St. Regis Bali Resort.

CCTV footage from the hotel reportedly showed Schaefer and Wiese-Mack arguing in the hotel lobby. Hours later, Schaefer, then 21, beat Wiese-Mack to death by repeatedly hitting her in the head with a fruit bowl. Mack, who was pregnant at the time, then reportedly helped wrap her mother’s remains in a sheet and stuffed the victim’s body in the luggage. Mack and Schaefer placed the suitcase in the trunk of the taxi before fleeing. The cab driver reportedly noticed blood leaking from the luggage and alerted police.

Authorities arrested the couple later that evening at a hotel approximately six miles away from the St. Regis resort.

Schaefer would later admit to killing Wiese-Mack, though he maintained that the killing was in self-defense. He said the victim attacked him after learning her daughter was pregnant.

Wiese-Mack and her daughter reportedly had a troubled relationship. Law enforcement authorities were called to their home in the upscale Oak Park, Illinois, suburbs at least 86 times between 2004 and 2013.

While Mack was originally sentenced to a decade in prison, her sentence was cut by 34 months due to good behavior, Kerobokan’s prison warden previously told The Associated Press.

Federal prosecutors in the Northern District of Illinois are now alleging that Mack and Schaeffer “conspired with each other to commit at a place outside the United States, namely, in the Republic of Indonesia, an act that would constitute the offense of murder,” according to the indictment.

“It was part of the conspiracy that Heather L. Mack and Tommy E. Schaefer concealed, misrepresented, and hid, and caused to be concealed, misrepresented, and hidden, the existence and purpose of the conspiracy and the acts done in furtherance of the conspiracy,” the five-page document, originally filed in July 2017 and unsealed in 2021, states.

The pair are also accused of having “corruptly destroyed, mutilated and concealed objects, and attempted to do so, with intent to impair the object’s integrity and availability for use in an official proceeding, by forcing the body of Sheila A. Von Wiese into a suitcase after she had been killed and removing the suitcase from the place of the murder; and by removing linens and items of clothing worn during the killing.”

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.