CHICAGO (AP) — 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 sentenced Wednesday 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 behavior 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 U.S. in 2021.
Before her sentence was read, Mack apologized to her mother’s brother and sister 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.”
The government also wanted the 28-year-old 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 “is warranted and sufficient, but not greater than necessary to serve a just and appropriate punishment for Mack’s heinous crime.”
The sentencing hearing began 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 has never shown remorse.
“If it were up to me, Heather would spend the rest of her life behind bars,” Wiese said.
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.
Mack pleaded guilty last June to one count of conspiring to kill von Wiese-Mack with her then-boyfriend to gain access to a $1.5 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 Mack and Schaefer trying to get the small suitcase containing Wiese-Mack’s body into an Indonesian taxicab.
Mack, who 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. She was deported in 2021 and U.S. agents arrested her on her arrival at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
Mack’s then-6-year-old daughter was with her when she was arrested. The girl was placed with a relative after a custody fight.
Mack’s lawyers had sought a 15-year prison term, but with credit for her seven years in the Indonesian prison. She automatically was credited for the more than two years she spent in custody in Chicago.
“For the taxpayers to incur the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to incarcerate Ms. Mack for an extended period of time within the BOP is particularly unnecessary,” attorney Michael Leonard said in a recent court filing, referring to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.
The plea agreement called for a sentence of no more than 28 years and for two other charges against Mack to be dropped.
Schaefer was convicted of murder and he is serving an 18-year sentence in Indonesia. He is charged in the same U.S. indictment. His mother, Kia Walker, was in the courtroom Wednesday for Mack’s sentencing.