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'Suitcase killer' pleads guilty in US to role in mom's murder

By Agence France-Presse Published Jun 17, 2023 9:25 am

A US woman known as the "suitcase killer" pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy to murder her mother, whose body was hidden in a piece of luggage after she was slain in Bali in 2014, the Department of Justice said.

Heather Mack, 27, was arrested in 2021 upon her return to the United States after spending seven years in prison in Indonesia for the killing. 

She faces an additional 28 years in prison in the United States when she is sentenced in December. 

In 2015, then-teenager Mack and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer were convicted in Indonesia of hatching a plan to kill her mother, Chicago socialite Sheila von Wiese Mack, who had been vacationing at a hotel on the island of Bali.

Schaefer beat the 62-year-old victim to death with a fruit bowl during a heated argument at the five-star St. Regis resort, before the couple abandoned the suitcase containing the battered body in a taxi and fled.

Mack, who was pregnant at the time of the crime, was found guilty on a lesser charge of assisting in the murder and sentenced to 10 years, while Schaefer got 18 years. 

Schaefer confessed during his trial but claimed he was defending himself during an argument with von Wiese Mack, who was unhappy that her daughter was pregnant.

Prosecutors alleged that Schaefer, who is Black, "blindly hit" von Wiese Mack with the fruit bowl in a fit of rage after she hurled a racial slur at him.

The couple then stuffed the body into the suitcase together, the trial was told.

Schaefer remains incarcerated in Indonesia, while Mack, who gave birth to a girl at the start of her sentence, was released in 2021 for good behavior. 

US charges against Schaefer are pending, the Justice Department said Friday. 

In 2017, Schaefer's cousin Robert Ryan Bibbs was also convicted in the case, accused of advising the couple with their plan. He was sentenced to nine years. 

The US Supreme Court has ruled that the constitution's injunction against "double jeopardy" doesn't apply in cases where someone is tried in one country and then pursued in another with its own distinct laws proscribing a distinct offense.

The US indictment accused Mack of conspiracy and other conduct not charged in the Indonesian case. (AFP)