True Crime Society – Heather Mack


Lois Heather Mack was born in October 1995 to Sheila von Wiese and James L Mack.  James as a jazz musician and composer.  James was 66 when Heather was born and Sheila was 43.

Lois went by her middle name Heather.  She grew up in Oak Park, Illinois and attended Oak Park and River Forest High School.  

Heather and Sheila seemed to have a tumultuous relationship.  Between January 2004 (when Heather would have been 9!), and June 2013, police went to the home 86 times.  That is almost once a month on average.  The calls were for domestic violence. Theft, missing person reports and 911 hangups.  All of the incidents were related to Heather and Sheila, according to David Power who is the Communications Director for Oak Park police.  

Just to backtrack slightly to add in some family history, in 2001, Heather, James and Sheila went on a Royal Caribbean Mediterranean cruise.  James injured his foot while on the trip and he did not apparently get proper medical treatment from the ships’ medical team.  This resulted in partial paralysis for him.  He filed a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean saying that he was partially paralysed and that he had to urinate in a bottle.  This case went on for years.

In 2006, the family went on vacation to Greece.  I believe Heather was James and Sheila’s only child, although James did have five children from previous relationships.    One of James’ peers has spoken to the media about James and Sheila’s relationship.  “Nobody could figure out how he ended up with her. He was definitely in a situation where he didn’t want to be alone and needed somebody. But in many ways, he was alone in that house,” said the veteran Chicago trumpeter Melvin Williams, who studied under Mack starting in 1963. Melvin said that Sheila discouraged her husband from socialising with the  adult children and their families.

Neighbors of the family have spoken.  Sheila was “a lovely, charming woman” said neighbour and friend Georgia Parchem who said Sheila encouraged her to enrol in literature courses at the University of Chicago where she received her doctorate. The Macks routinely held parties involving “artists and friend

On this vacation, James died on August 6, 2006 in his hotel room from a pulmonary embolism.  

In January 2010, Heather allegedly punched Sheila in her broken ankle and Sheila accused her at the time of stealing $1,000.  

In February 2011, Heather broke Sheila’s arm and disabled the phone so that Sheila could not call for help.  

In December 2011, Heather was arrested at age 16 for domestic battery, aggravated battery and battery charges involving violence against Sheila.  

She was found guilty of battery and was ordered to attend counselling with a focus on anger management.  

Some of the incidents between mother and daughter have been made public and they include Heather biting, punching and hitting her mother.  In one incident, Sheila broke her arm while defending herself against Heather.  Sheila told police repeatedly that Heather needed counselling because she had mental health issues.  

In 2011, ten years after James sustained his injury, a settlement in the Royal Caribbean lawsuit was reached.  After legal fees, Sheila received $340,667 and James’ estate got $500,000.  James had apparently written a will five days prior to his death and had left his estate to Heather.  Despite this, the $500k was awarded to Sheila.  

In November 2012, Heather bit Sheila and left a bruise.  Police became involved in the incident but Sheila refused to let officers photograph her injury.  

When Heather was a senior at Oak Park High, she began dating Tommy Schaefer who was two years older than her.    Tommy was an unemployed rapper, also known as Tommy EXX.  Sheila did not approve of their relationship and she ended up selling their home and moving Heather and herself to Gold Coast, Chicago to get away from Tommy.  Despite this. Heather became pregnant at least twice by Tommy.  She had two abortions.  Sheila was seeking to obtain power of attorney over Heather to enforce a third abortion.  

They were waiting on final blood work to determine if Heather was really pregnant when Sheila booked them a vacation to Bali.  Doesn’t seem like great timing to me.

Sheila flew herself and Heather first class to Bali.  They arrived on August 4 and stayed at a hotel in Seminyak, before moving to St Regis Hotel in Nusa Dua on August 9. 

The hotel is still in existence and this is a recent review:

An absolutely breathtaking experience as the last stop on our honeymoon in Bali, we’ve not experienced luxury like it before and truly hope we will again. The restaurants, the beach, the lagoon, the setting, all of it was superb and I’d recommend every aspect. In particular I need to mention the staff, who were absolutely exceptional and really made the St Regis stick in the memory. I have mentioned other staff in separate reviews, but I have to give special thanks to Agus and colleagues who went above and beyond when my wife was ill on our final evening, and to Putra and colleagues for superb butler service throughout. We are very grateful for you making our stay so wonderful. We hope to return!

The hotel’s current rates appear to be around $10k per week for two people. 

After Sheila and Heather arrived in Bali, Heather stole Sheila’s credit card and booked a $12k business class flight to Bali for Tommy. 

Tommy arrived in Bali two days after Heather and Sheila checked into the St Regis.  On the night of his arrival, there is CCTV arguing with Sheila in the hotel lobby.  

At some point, the trio must have ended up back in a hotel room and Tommy beat Sheila to death with the metal handle of a fruit stand.

Tommy and Heather stuffed Sheila’s body into a suitcase and they wheeled it to the lobby.  They then hailed a cab and put the suitcase in the trunk.  They told the taxi driver they were going to check out and would be right back.  When that didn’t  happen, hotel security guards opened the trunk and found blood on the suitcase.  They told the taxi driver to take it to the police station, where the case was opened and Sheila’s body was discovered.

Tommy and Heather had fled the scene but were found at a nearby motel and were arrested.  They initially told police that Sheila was killed by robbers but that they managed to escape.

Sheila’s body was taken from an autopsy at a hospital in Denpasar.. Head of Forensics Ida Bagus Putu Alit said there were signs of violence on the body indicating the victim fought before she died.

“We found scars on both forearms and the broken left-hand fingernail,” Mr Alit said following an external examination. “That indicated a resistance in a fight.”

On August 20, 2014, a urine test confirmed that Heather was pregnant.  Police did not believe her story until that time as they thought she might be making excuses in an effort to be sent back to the US.

Just to interject here, conditions in prison in Bali are rough.  This info is from an article by mamamia:

Bonella writes about murders made to look like suicides, and explores the corruption of a prison that only allocates $1 a day per prisoner.

She heard of ‘wild sex nights’, where men paid for sex workers to enter Kerobokan and the prisoners would take turns, cheered on by guards pocketing a cut of the money.

“The men,” she writes, “share a squat toilet, usually blocked with faeces and stinking out the cell. Poor locals will spend months locked in this cell without being let out once.”

One man was imprisoned there for 12 months over an unpaid bill when his wallet was stolen.

Conibeer says his wallet and phone was stolen while in Bali, and a dispute over an unpaid bill led to his arrest. He was charged and imprisoned for almost 12 months, alongside serial killers and paedophiles.

While inside Kerobokan, he witnessed murders and saw prisoners die of drug overdoses.

“The water is infected and you get rashes so you get sick every second week,” he wrote.

He slept on the floor among rats, cockroaches and ants, with no money to barter for food or water.

On September 19, 2014, Tommy admitted to killing Sheila and Heather admitted to helping dispose of the body in the suitcase.  On January 14, 2015, they were both charged with premeditated murder.  The maximum punishment for this in Bali is death by firing squad.

Tommy told police that he had killed Sheila after she threatened to kill Heather’s unborn baby.  He also said that Sheila attempted to choke him.

In 2015, Heather gave birth to a baby girl that she called Estelle, known as Stella. As per Indonesian law, Stella was allowed to live with Heather in her jail cell until she turned 2.

Heather spoke to People in 2015.  “She is everything. She has taught me what love is. She has given me a reason to want to live,” she said of Stella. “She’s given me a purpose each morning when I wake up. When Stella is awake, the days are good — I can’t have a breakdown. But at night when she’s asleep, it gets tough.”

As it was Heather’s choice to keep Stella in prison with her, she had to pay for Stella’s food, clothes and medical care.  She recieved some money from Sheila’s trust for this.  William Wiese, Sheila’s brother said in 2018:

‘Big up to Heather for keeping Stella in jail so the trust has to pay for her food as well that she cooks and sells for cash to buy cigarettes, Coca Cola and chocolate that stabilizes Stella’s diet.’

During the People interview, Heather also spoke about the relationship she had with Sheila. 

“She never wanted to be separated from me, and yet she also hated everything about me. “It was complicated.”

A family friend added, “It was like they were locked in an inescapable pattern, a gridlock. It’s such a sad story. It was like a disaster waiting to happen.”

Heather said that her relationship with Sheila deteriorated quickly after her father died.  She did say though that she considered herself to be close with her mother.

“There was a lot of good in our relationship. I don’t know if I would describe us as friends, but we were close.”

Heather had apparently tried to move out of the family home when she turned 18.  She said that Sheila didn’t like this and would send Heather pictures of suicide attempts that she made.  

Heather told People that she and Sheila would bond over shoplifting together.

“We’d take thousands and thousands of dollars worth of makeup,” Mack said. “She’d tell me that nobody would expect a kid to do that and have me steal it while she distracted the clerk. … I wanted to make her happy, so I’d just do it.”

Heather spoke about how her mother had apparently encouraged violence.  She would egg on Heather by saying ‘hit me, hit me’ repeatedly until she did so. 

Heather told the media that while they were in Bali, her mother was ‘drunk the whole time and taking prescription pain pills’. 

Heather ended up being sentenced to 10 years in prison.  Judges said they had given her a lenient sentence because she had just given birth.

Tommy was sentenced to 18 years.  

In a twist, on September 23, 2015, Tommy’s cousin Robert Bibbs was arrested in Chicago on federal charges for conspiracy after he allegedly told Heather and Tommy how they should kill Sheila.  He was sentenced to 9 years in prison in 2017.  The plea deal he took stated that he knew Heather had offered Tommy $50k to kill Sheila and that Robert had offered advice on the best way to murder her.

In terms of how Heather afforded her legal defense, she was the beneficiary of a $1.6m trust fund.  The terms of the fund were that she would be paid small annual amounts until she turned 30, when she was would receive the balance.

Up to $150,000 was approved to be released from the fund to cover Heather’s legal expenses.  

Sheila’s brother William Wiese was the executor of her estate and he fought paying anything out to Heather. He cited the Illinois slayer statute which states if you’re involved in a murder and you’re a beneficiary of a trust of the person you murdered, you lose all rights as a beneficiary. 

In 2018, Heather gave up all claim to her mother’s estate.  It was said that she would not receive any ‘property, benefit or other interest.’ 

Stella was named as the sole beneficiary of Sheila’s estate.  

While Heather was in jail, she apparently hooked up with an Indonesian inmate named Rafael. 

Despite being incarcerated, Heather seemed to have many freedoms.  William, Sheila’s brother said ‘I’ve seen many pictures and videos that Heather posts on social media showing the partying, drinking and going out to restaurants. I do not understand how this happens in prison. It’s just crazy, it’s like she’s dancing on Sheila’s grave, she doesn’t show any remorse at all.’

It was rumored that while in prison, Heather became addicted to local crystal meth, called Shabu.  

Stella was eventually removed from the prison and was being cared for by a Balinese Australian person who Heather had befriended during the trial.  Heather apparently saw Stella less than once every two weeks, despite being able to request a visit at any time.

On October 29, 2021, after spending 7 years in prison, Heather was freed.  This happened after she was granted a total of 34 months remission.

Heather wanted to stay in Indonesia as she said it was safer than Chicago. 

“The people are nicer and it’s better and safer than back home,” she told DailyMailTV. “Back there I was getting in with a bad crowd.”

Indonesian immigration denied this request and both she and Stella were deported.  Heather was arrested upon her arrival in Chicago in November 2021.  She was charged with conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Stella was removed from Heather’s care upon their arrival in the states.  In February 2023, a judge named a cousin of Heather’s as Stella’s guardian.  The judge also said that she wanted to make sure that Stella, would “not be used as a pawn or exploited in any fashion.”

Heather’s trial was scheduled to start in July 2023.  However, in June this year, she pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to kill a US National.  Her lawyer said she did this to hopefully avoid a sentence of life in prison.  The plea deal that was struck calls for a sentence of no more than 28 years.  

Heather’s lawyer Michael Leonard has been arguing for leniency at sentencing, He said he would present evidence that Heather has matured and that she was “a fantastic mother” to Stella.

“She is certainly not the person she was,” Michael said. “She has grown as a human.”

Michael said Heather was able to spend time with her daughter while serving her sentence in Indonesia and that her child was now her top priority.

“The most important thing for her is reunification with her daughter,” he said.

Heather is due to be sentenced on December 18, 2023.  Tommy remains in prison in Indonesia.

SOURCE LIST –,years%20old%2C%20per%20Indonesian%20law.


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