An American woman who pleaded guilty to helping kill her own mother and stuffing the body in a suitcase during a luxury vacation in Bali was on Wednesday sentenced to 26 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors had recommended a 28-year prison sentence for Heather Mack for conspiring with her boyfriend to kill Sheila von Wiese-Mack in 2014.
Mack’s attorney, Michael Leonard, said he expects Mack, 28, will be locked up for roughly 20 years including good behaviour credits available to all federal prisoners. His estimate also accounts for the judge giving Mack credit for the two-plus years she spent in custody in Chicago after completing a jail term in Indonesia. She was deported to the US in 2021.
Before her sentence was read at the court in Chicago, Mack apologised to her mother’s siblings through tears.
“It breaks my heart, hearing you cry,” she told Debbi Curran, her aunt and Wiese-Mack’s sister, who had audibly sobbed as her daughter read a victim impact statement on Curran’s behalf.
“There’s no excuse for trying to harm her,” Mack said. “I miss and love my mother.”
Mack covered her mother’s mouth while boyfriend bludgeoned her with a fruit bowl
Mack pleaded guilty last June to one count of conspiring to kill Wiese-Mack with her boyfriend to gain access to a $1.5 million (£1.2 million) trust fund. Prosecutors have said Mack, then 18 and pregnant, covered her mother’s mouth while Tommy Schaefer bludgeoned Wiese-Mack with a fruit bowl in a hotel room.
Prosecutors said Mack and Schaefer had planned the killing for months, and that video evidence showed the couple trying to get the small suitcase containing Wiese-Mack’s body into an Indonesian taxicab.
“This was a brutal, premeditated crime,” Kennelly said before sentencing Mack. He also ordered her to pay $262,708 in restitution and a $50,000 fine.
Mack, who had lived with her mother in suburban Chicago’s Oak Park, served seven years of her 10-year Indonesian sentence for her 2015 conviction of being an accessory to Wiese-Mack’s murder.
Mack was deported in 2021 and her then-six-year-old daughter was with her when she was arrested on arrival at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. The girl was placed with a relative after a custody fight.
‘Heather should spend the rest of her life behind bars’
The sentencing hearing began on Wednesday morning with testimony from Bill Wiese, Wiese-Mack’s brother and Mack’s uncle.
He asked Judge Matthew Kennelly to impose the maximum sentence possible, saying Mack had never shown remorse.
“If it were up to me, Heather would spend the rest of her life behind bars,” Mr Wiese said. He later said Mack’s courtroom apology was the first time he had heard her say she was sorry.
Mack, who wore an orange jumpsuit, orange slip-on shoes and glasses, remained mostly impassive as her uncle spoke, occasionally looking at attendees and giving small smiles to some.
Another relative read a statement on behalf of the girl’s guardian, who said she recently chose to tell the child the “difficult truth” about her parents, then held her as she cried.
Now she “does not want to speak to her mother” or be raised by her, the statement said, adding that she is “amazing” and “empathetic” in spite of, not because of, Mack.
Mack said in her statement that she wants to be the best mother possible and that being a mother has helped her to grow.
“I understand my mom in a way I didn’t before,” Mack said.
Wiese-Mack was ‘very thoughtful and had a beautiful smile’
Mack’s lawyers had sought a 15-year prison term, but with credit for her seven years in the Indonesian prison.
The government also wanted Mack to get five years of supervised release, a $250,000 fine and restitution of $262,708. In a filing last week, prosecutors said the recommended sentence was “warranted and sufficient, but not greater than necessary to serve a just and appropriate punishment for Mack’s heinous crime”.
Schaefer was convicted of murder and he is serving an 18-year sentence in Indonesia. He is charged in the same US indictment. His mother, Kia Walker, was in the courtroom on Wednesday for Mack’s sentencing.
Mr Wiese, standing with his wife, sister and another niece, told reporters after sentencing that “justice was served.”
Wiese-Mack was “wicked smart,” “very thoughtful and had a beautiful smile,” he said. “She loved listening to classical music and going to the opera. She had more books than anyone I know.”
“Please remember her as this person,” he added. “Not the woman stuffed into a suitcase.”