Heather Mack sentencing: ‘Suitcase killer’ faces 28 years in federal prison
Mack, 28, entered the courtroom on Wednesday morning, where she was confronted by her family members who told the judge she should not be granted any leniency over Sheila von Wiese-Mack’s murder.
Prosecutors are seeking a 28-year sentence while Mack’s attorneys are asking for 15 years with credit for seven years spent in an Indonesian prison.
The tragic case began in August 2014 when Illinois socialite von Wiese-Mack, 62, took her then-18-year-old pregnant daughter on vacation to the St. Regis resort.
Mack’s boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, 21, flew out to the island and the pair bludgeoned von Wiese-Mack to death, stuffed her body in a suitcase and left it in the trunk of a taxi.
Both Mack and Schaefer were convicted of murder in Indonesia in 2015.
Mack served 7 years in prison before being deported and arrested as soon as she stepped foot on US soil.
After spending two years in federal prison awaiting trial, Mack reached a plea deal with prosecutors in June, pleading guilty to conspiracy to kill a US national.
The judge is about to rule
“We can speculate what exactly happened. I don’t know why we need to. It was a brutal premeditated crime and there was a concerted effort to cover it up…That’s kind of enough,” the judge said.
Kelly Rissman17 January 2024 20:09
Mack speaks: ‘I’m responsible for my decisions’
Mack claimed responsibility for ‘her decisions’ and dismissed her turbulent relationship with her mother: “There’s no excuse for trying to harm her.”
“I made my decision. I can’t sit here and blame them for those decisions,” she said. She pointed out how much she misses her mom: “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. I miss her smile. Her ‘I love yous’ and mostly her holding me.”
Despite Mack’s statements, her defence attorney just described Mack as having a “toxic relationship” with her mother. The lawyer said that it is “human nature” to “deify” someone lost in a “tragic and horrible way” and to “completely eradicate any of the good” exhibited by the perpetrator.
Kelly Rissman17 January 2024 19:58
Up next: Heather Mack
Mr Steinback concluded, “Heather’s got about nine years, four months of uninterrupted prison time, served either under 23.5-hour lockdown for the most part, or in a place where you’d rather be locked down 23.5 hours. … That’s got to mean something.”
Now, Heather Mack is about to speak to the court.
Kelly Rissman17 January 2024 19:52
Potential conflicting argument
As a reporter pointed out, Mack’s attorney’s argument seems to stray from some of her plea deal admissions.
In the plea agreement, for example, it says: “As part of the agreement, Mack communicated to Schaefer that she intended to share the proceeds of Von Wiese’s estate with Schaefer once Von Wiese was dead.”
Kelly Rissman17 January 2024 19:42
‘There was no plan’: defence attorney claims
Mr Steinback said that when Mack left for Bali with her mother, she had told others that “she wasn’t going to go through with” the murder.
He added, “There was no hand over the mouth. There was no plan.”
Talking about her boyfriend, he said, “There was no plan ahead of time for Tommy to come over.”
“This was not what the government talks about as being a very meticulous and sophisticated plan. What happened, as heinous, violent, brutal as it was, occurred on the fly, ad hoc, and essentially unplanned,” Mr Steinback argued.
Kelly Rissman17 January 2024 19:39
Mack’s relationship with her mom revisited
Mr Steinback called Mack’s relationship with her mom “an ugly, toxic relationship in the main. And it cannot be discarded with a narrative that would suggest that it was only hate by Heather and love by her mother. That’s not true.”
Kelly Rissman17 January 2024 19:31
ICYMI: Why is Heather Mack in court?
Heather Mack, 28, was infamously dubbed the “suitcase killer” after she and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, then 21, bludgeoned her socialite mother Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62, to death and stuffed her body in a suitcase.
After serving seven years in an Indonesian jail for murder, Mack was extradited to the US where she was arrested and hit with fresh charges of conspiracy to murder in November 2021.
Prosecutors have said that Mack, then 18 and pregnant, covered her mother’s mouth in a hotel room while Tommy Schaefer bludgeoned Wiese-Mack with a fruit bowl.
In June, she pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy to kill Wiese-Mack to get access to a $1.5 million trust fund.
Now, federal prosecutors in Chicago are recommending a 28-year prison sentence for Mack.
Kelly Rissman17 January 2024 19:22
Judge rejects defence’s argument
Mack’s attorney argued that she could have benefitted had the US government indicted her sooner.
Judge Kennelly replied, “It’s baloney. It’s just baloney. There’s no way that she was going to come back here until her time was over.”
Kelly Rissman17 January 2024 19:19
Mack’s Bali prison time
Mr Steinback is now discussing Mack’s time in Bali prison. The attorney claimed that the photos taken of Mack smiling while at the facility were staged. He added that his client was told to speak highly of the prison to improve its reputation.
He also tried to paint a contrast to the prosecution’s description of Mack’s time in Bali, saying that the facility held 25 inmates per room, had no beds, and a provided hole in the floor for a toilet.
“Seven years in that hell hole and we want to dismiss it as though it was nothing,” Mr Steinback said.
Kelly Rissman17 January 2024 19:08
Defence attorney talks up Mack
Mack’s lawyer said: “We’re blaming Heather Mack because she finally got big enough and strong enough to say: ‘I’m not going to take this anymore. I won’t be beaten. I won’t be humiliated. I won’t be forced to do things that are humiliating.’”
Mr Steinback then, seemingly trying to portray Mack in a favourable light, said that his client aided in preventing a fellow inmate’s suicide attempt at Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center.
Kelly Rissman17 January 2024 18:57