Sheila Von Weiss-Mack Murdered
A Blueprint For Cruise Ship Murder
At Sea -
In the summer of 2001 James L. Mack, his wife Sheila Von Weiss-Mack and their daughter Heather Mack, age 9, were on a Royal Caribbean Cruise in the Mediterranean when James Mack cut his foot in or around the cruise ship swimming pool. He sought medical assistance from the cruise ship doctor aboard. They filed a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines for medical malpractice, James Mack and Sheila Mack v .Royal Caribbean, which they won based on the outcome of the Carlisle v Carnival Cruise Line, which was a case precedent cruise line medical mal practice lawsuit, now often quoted in other lawsuits involving alleged cruise ship doctor mal practice The couple won $1.5 million in a court order back in 2011.
Of the 1.5 million dollars won from Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, the couple got $840,000 after attorney fees and costs. Sheila von Wiese-Mack immediately netted $340,667 after legal fees for her share of the settlement, according to court records. But another $500,000 went to James Mack’s estate. which his will stipulated was "only to provide for Heather Mack, my child, and for no other children.” June 2011, a judge authorized von Wiese-Mack, the executor of her husband’s estate, to pay herself the remaining $500,000 as the estate’s “sole beneficiary.” His first wife and other five chidren were excluded.
Murder In Paradise Case - The Suitcase Murder - From The Start
James L. Mack - Injured Cruise Ship Passenger
James L. Mack, born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, was a musician, conductor, composer, producer and arranger who worked on more than 60 albums for artists, while also serving for more than 30 years as chairman of the music department at Harold Washington College. Mack had a bachelor's and master's degree in music from Roosevelt University and was an arranger and producer for labels including Brunswick, Chess, Capitol and Columbia. Equally skilled in classical music, he was a guest conductor for orchestras including the Chicago and Grant Park Symphonies. He mastered flute and was considered an excellent flutist. From 1974 until his death in 2006, Mr. Mack had been music director at First Presbyterian Church of Chicago in Hyde Park. Mr Mack, 76, died in Athens, Greece, after suffering a pulmonary embolism in his hotel while on vacation.
Sheila A. Von Weise-Mack - Murder Victim
Sheila A. Von Weise-Mack, 62, was born in Minneapolis, grew up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and gave birth to her daughter Heather at the age of 43. Weiss-Mack worked for Senator Ted Kennedy after graduating from college in Boston, worked with famed Chicago author Studs Terkel and studied under author Saul Bellow. She worked for the book publisher Doubleday, where she was a colleague of Jacqueline Kennedy. Sheila A. Von Weise-Mack was living in Oak Park, Illinois until July 17, 2013 when she sold her 647 Linden Avenue, Oak Park home valued at $1.7 million for $650,000, she moved to an apartment on Lake Shore Drive in nearby Chicago. She had been on a ten-day vacation in Bali when police say she was murdered by her daughter Heather Mack and the daughter's boyfriend Tommy Schaefer at a luxury hotel in Bali. Autopsy results show Weiss-Mack died of asphyxiation from a broken nose bone and a broken neck.
Heather Lois Mack - Alleged Murder
Heather Lois Mack, 19, was the only child of James L. Mack and Sheila A. Von Weise-Mack. She had been in heated family arguments with her mother many times according to Sheila Mack Police Reports
. Police records indicate they had showed up at the Mack house, 86 times between 2004 and 2013, which included missing person cases when Heather Mack ran away and for domestic complaints which included claims by Sheila Mack her daughter Heather Mack had assaulted her, and stolen money and credit cards.
In December 2011 she was arrested on domestic battery, aggravated battery and battery charges, according to Cook County juvenile records. The arrest followed a violent argument with her mother. It's unclear if this incident with her mother was the same as the incident where Sheila Mack's arm was broken during an argument with her daughter. She was placed on one year of court supervision after she was found guilty of battery, ultimately ordered to undergo mandatory counseling, including anger management, as part of a violence prevention program. Heather Mack lived in 2012 in two different community-based facilities for minors in the juvenile court system.
Tommy Schaefer - Alleged Murder
Tommy Schaefer, 21, aka Tommy Exx, an aspiring rap musician, had been dating Heather Lois Mack since April. On July 23, 2014, he and Heather Mack hosted a party at swank Conrad Hotel in Chicago with a half dozen friends, using Sheila Weiss-Mack's credit card. Mr Schaefer video-taped the party and posted the video on Instagram. Von Weise-Mack reported her credit card stolen that day, saying it was being used at the Conrad Hotel and charged $1,000 worth of services at the $300 per night hotel. Schaefer was arrested at the Conrad Hotel for acting out, he posted the video of the arrest which was recorded with his cell phone and posted on instagram.
Police reports quote Von Weise-Mack as saying Heather hit her, bit her and threatened to hit her in the head so it wouldn't leave bruises. At one point the victim alleges her daughter locked her in a room of their house so she couldn't call 911 during an argument with her daughter.
Sheila A. Von Weise-Mack's beaten body was found in a suitcase in the back of a taxi at the $650-a-night St. Regis Hotel in Depasar, Bali, in Indonesia. She was beaten to death in room 616. Police said hotel cameras show Von Weise-Mack arguing with Tommy Schaefer.
The couple did not return to the taxi, which sat at the hotel for hours. The driver and hotel employees then opened the trunk and saw blood on the outside of the three-foot-long suitcase, after which the driver went to the police station. “The body was wrapped in a hotel bedsheet covered with blood and tied up with duct tape, with the Mack's body folded in half, with her feet near her head. Duct tape in his possession while on vacation at a tropical hotel?
Time of death was estimated after hotel staff gave police information that supports a timeline regarding possible time of death as between 6:45 a.m., when the victim was last heard from, and 10 a.m., the time she was expecting a wake-up call on Thursday.
Schaefer was heard arguing with Sheila Von Weiss-Mack at the reception desk of the luxury hotel on Wednesday morning about who should pay the bill when they were due to check out of the hotel the next day.
Weiss-Mack was heard saying she had paid for Schaefer's flight there and he should pay for the hotel. He was seen carrying the suitcase containing Von Weise-Mack's body on his back down the back emergency exit hotel stairs; then loading the suitcase into the trunk of a taxi cab. Heather and Tommy left the taxi saying they were going to go get the rest of their luggage, but instead ordered another taxi and snuck out the back door to the hotel, arriving at another hotel near the airport, the four-star Risata Bali Resort.
Schaefer's prints were found on the weapon allegedly used to murder Von Weise-Mack. Police say the murder was pre-meditated, with a mountain of evidence pointing to their guilt, including the fact Schaefer posted on Facebook before he left the U.S. that he was going to Indonesia and wasn’t sure when he was coming back, and then going to China. He may have been running from the law in Indiana. Court records show an outstanding warrant for Schaefer's arrest from February 2013 after he failed to appear in court on marijuana possession charge in Monroe County, Indiana.
Grab For RCCL Lawsuit Cash? On August 7, 2014, Heather Mack posted online "i refuse to let someone say what I can do, gettin (sic) money my attitude you know what it do #bali."
Denpasar police chief Djoko Hariutomo alleges Heather Mack initially told them she and Tommy Schaefer been taken captive at the St. Regis by an armed gang of three men who killed Mrs Mack.
Heather Mack is claiming to be two months pregnant and has a condition known as ectopic pregnancy (tubal pregnancy), which is serious and necessitates her immediate return to the U.S.
She is also claiming to have been sexually assaulted three times since being in Bali police custody. Col. Djoko Hari Utomo, the police chief in Bali's provincial capital, Denpasar, denied the sexual abuse claim. "We never treat her like that,' Utomo said. "We even treat her better than treatment for other detainees here."
Police say they were told Heather and boyfriend Tommy had sex in the four-star Risata Bali Resort after Von Weise-Mack was murdered. Reports say after Von Weise-Mack's beating death Heather Mack and Tommy Schaefer tried to access Sheila Von Weiss-Mack's safety deposit box, but hotel staff refused to open it. Later, the couple approached police to report their passports stolen, which were not stolen, but locked in Weiss-Mack's safety deposit box. The couple were told they had to go to the embassy to get new passports but instead disappeared.
Von Weise-Mack's coffin was removed from Sanglah Hospital and flown back to Chicago, where she and her daughter had resided before going on their 10-day vacation.
Friday, August 15, 2014, an FBI agent showed up in Bali to assist in the murder investigation of American Von Weise-Mack's death. They will be providing assistance to local authorities during the investigation and trial. The FBI are investigating possible criminal activity by the accused couple in the United States.
Heather Mack and Tommy Schaefer's trial will be held in Bali, a predominantly Muslim archipelago, with a potential death sentence resulting in death by firing squad if convicted for Sheila Von Weise-Mack's death. This case is unfolding and will be updated with more police and court records as well as the progression of the coming trials.
The trial for Heather Mack began with her now seven months pregnant and showing, arriving at the court with boyfriend Tommy Schaefer handcuffed to her. The prosecution alleges Heather Mack offered to pay a hitman $50,000 to kill her mother if Schaefer could find someone to kill her. Mack says her unborn baby, which she claims to be a girl, has her own lawyer. The due date for the baby is reportedly April 1. The trial continues.
Updated: March 17, 2015
Heather Mack delivered the 6-pound, 1-ounce girl during a cesarean operation at Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar, near the prison on March 17, 2015, attorney Anthony Scifo told reporters. According to Indonesian law, Mack can keep her baby with her in prison until the girl, named Stella, is two-years-old.
Scifo wired money to Indonesia for the hospital after working out a deal with Mack's uncle, who controls her $1.56 million trust fund until her 30th birthday. Otherwise, the baby would have been born in the prison.
Heather Mack's defense lawyer, Anthony Scifo, spoke publicly, announcing Sheila Mack had tried to force Heather to get an abortion before they left for Bali. He stated that twice before, Heather had been pregnant with Sheila Mack forcing her to get an abortion.
Elliott Jacobson, a friend of Sheila Mack's, released around 150 emails between himself and the murdered woman, to show how much Sheila Mack loved her daughter. In an email July 30, just before they had left for Bali, Sheila Mack had written, "refused to sign the power of attorney", which assumably was being requested in order to give Sheila Mack control of Heather's medical records and procedures. Jacobson said that she never "forced" her daughter to do anything.
Scifo says the Co-defendant Tommy Schaefer's mother, Kia Walker is in Bali, helping Heather Mack at the hospital. This gives at least one potential option for baby Stella if neither of her parents are able to care for her after the trial. With the $1.5 million Heather Mack trust fund dwindling from the expenses related to the trial, it's unclear if baby Stella, or her caregivers would have any of Heather Mack's trust fund money left for Stella's support.
The trial is due to continue on March 24, when prosecutors will submit their sentencing demands. Heather Mack and Tommy Schaefer face the death penalty, potentially by firing squad, if convicted of planning her mother's death. If found guilty of an unpremeditated, heat-of-passion killing, they could be sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The Heather Mack trial has been delayed. After giving birth to Stella and a week-long hospital stay, Heather Mack brought Stella back to the prison cell she shared with eight other women. Two days later, Stella had a fever and was jaundiced. Stella was taken the prison clinic and it set to head back to the hospital. Apparently, mommy duties are reason for a trial delay in Bali.
The couple appeared in court with their two-week-old infant daughter.
Both Heather Mack and Tommy Schaefer appeared in court Tuesday, March 31, 2105, to hear the sentencing recommendation prosecutors would ask the court to consider, if Mack and Schaefer are convicted. The panel of judges could accept the recommendation, or opt for the maximum sentence of death by firing squad.
Prosecutors sought jail sentences of 18 years for Tommy Schaefer and 15 years for Heather Mack if they are found guilty of the murder, saying the couple were guilty of premeditated murder.
Prosecutors speaking on the sentencing term for Mack said, "The defendant has committed sadistic acts to her own mother," chief prosecutor Eddy Arta Wijaya told the court at Mack's trial. "However, we've decided to be lenient because she repeatedly expressed remorse and has a newborn baby."
Defense lawyers will respond to the prosecution's case next week, and verdicts are expected in late April.
Debbi Curran, Sheila Von Weise-Mack's sister when told of the prosecution's suggested sentence to the court said, " The recommended sentence is a complete and total injustice for a premeditated murder charge, the evidence of premeditated murder is overwhelming. Our beloved Sheila was brutally murdered."
Lawyers for Heather Mack and Tommy Schaefer presented the case for leniency in the sentencing. Mack's lawyer, Ary Soenardi, said his client has apologized and remains troubled by what happened.
"The defendant still regrets and feels sad over the death of her late mother," Soenardi said. "As the only child, the defendant has lost the love of a mother."
Soenarki went on to say, since none of 22 witnesses at trial knew exactly what actions were taken by the defendant, premeditated murder charges were a stretch.
Soenarki concluded that he hoped the judge would "take into account the social and psychological conditions of the defendant in deciding the verdict and hand down as light as possible sentence."
Sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday, April 14, 2015.
Yasona Laoly, Indonesia’s Justice and Human Rights Minister, came to visit Mack and has offered Mack the chance to place the baby with a family in Bali to care for the child, During his visit, he also told Mack he will see to it she gets a private cell. Reports say Mack also has a cell phone in her cell she can use.
While speaking with the minister she also requested Stella Schaefer be baptized.
Mack is one of two women caring for their baby in Kerobokan prison. Another woman is sharing a cell with her 7 month-old baby and seven other women.
In court on Tuesday, April 14, 2015, Mack's attorney Ary Soenardi said in his plea for leniency, "In our opinion, the prosecutors failed to provide clear evidence of the defendant's assistance in the case," Soenardi said. "Therefore, the primary charge of premeditated murder should be ruled out."
Soienardi went on to say, "Premeditated murder could not be proven legally and convincingly," Edy said. "The defendant, therefore, should not be punished as sought by the prosecutors."
A panel of three judges will decide the fate of the pair on trial.
Update: April 21, 2015: GUILTY!
The panel of three Indonesia judges found both Heather Mack and Tommy Schaefer guilty of premeditated murder in death of Heather Mack's mother Sheila Von Weise-Mack.
Heather Mack was sentenced to 10 years in prison instead of the 15 years prosecutors requested and Tommy Schaefer was sentenced to the 18 year sentence prosecutors requested.
Asked if she was keeping Baby Stella with her in prison for the two years allowed by law, Mack responded, "I'm waiting to make that decision and it's overwhelming," Mack tells PEOPLE. "If both parents are going to be in Bali, then I want to make sure my baby is here in Bali also, even though she might not be by my side 24 hours a day."
Update: May 9, 2015: Attorneys for Heather Mack were in court, asking Judge Neil Cohen to release another $200,000 from Mack’s trust fund to help pay her Indonesian attorney to file an appeal of her murder conviction.Cook County Judge refused to give more trust fund money to Heather Mack. The judge said it was unclear whether the Bali conviction would be equivalent to first or second degree murder, which determines the law on the trust fund which would apply.
Mack's trust attorneys had filed an emergency motion for another $200,000 for her legal fees. Ary Soenardi who is the Bali lawyer working for Mack, said that he would continue to represent Mack on appeal only if his fee was “paid quickly.”
Update: June 18, 2015 : Michael Elkin, lawyer for Heather Mack was back in Chicago court, defending accusations Heather Mack was trying to sell her baby, Stella Schaefer for $150,000 on the black market. The information came to light through Tommy Schaefer's mother, (Stella's grandmother) Kia Walker who told the court Kia Walker told the court that she is concerned about her granddaughter's welfare and fears she is being sold for $150,000. Walker says she had text messages to prove the claim.
Update: August 15, 2015 : While both Tommy Schaefer and Heather Mack have been struggling to get their hands on the $1.56 million trust fund left for Heather Mack by her mother for Heather's sole use, a new twist in the case may deny both convicts any access to the funds, which are now being controlled by Sheila Von Weise-Mack's attorney brother, William Weise.
Under Illinois' slayer statute, a person who intentionally and unjustifiably caused the death of another person cannot receive property as a result of the death of that person.
Leonard LeRose is the attorney representing Heather Mack's uncle William Wiese. LeRose says they have released funds for food and required items to keep Heather Mack healthy, since she is breast feeding baby Stella. However, he wants to make sure neither Heather Mack nor Tommy Schaefer ever get their own use of the inheritance, which originated with the lawsuit won against Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Attorneys say they are protecting the money for baby Sheila for when she is of age.
It's expected that a court judge will be asked to bring in an independent mediator to help them resolve disagreement over the $1.56 million trust fund, which has already been depleted considerably to pay over $200,000 in attorney fees to cover the murder trial.
Update: September 23, 2015
FBI is investigating Robert Ryan Justin Bibbs who is Tommy Schaefer cousin. Robert Bibbs was texting with Tommy Schaefer right after he and Heather Mack killed her mother Sheila Von-Weise Mack. Sheila Von-Weise Mack was on the floor dead with Heather Mack looking for a suitcase to stuff her mother into and a luggage cart to transport her mother's body.
FBI Press Release:
A Chicago man has been charged for conspiring with his cousin and cousin’s girlfriend to kill a U.S. citizen at a resort in Bali, Indonesia, in August 2014, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in federal court in Chicago today.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon for the Northern District of Illinois and Acting Special Agent in Charge John A. Brown of the FBI’s Chicago Division made the announcement.
According to the complaint, Robert Ryan Justin Bibbs, 24, of Chicago, advised his cousin, Tommy Schaefer, and Schaefer’s girlfriend, Heather Mack, on how to kill Mack’s mother, Sheila Von Wiese in August 2014. The complaint alleges that, on or about Aug. 2, 2014, Von Wiese and Mack departed Chicago for a vacation in Bali, Indonesia.
On or about Aug. 12, 2014, Schaefer allegedly departed Chicago and arrived in Indonesia at the same resort where Mack and the victim were staying. The complaint alleges that, within hours of Schaefer’s arrival, the victim was bludgeoned to death, and Schaefer and Mack stuffed the body in a suitcase and placed it in a taxi cab, which was later discovered by Indonesian police.
According to the complaint, Bibbs knew of the plot to kill Von Wiese before Schaefer and Mack carried it out, advised them on how to kill the victim, and counseled Schaefer on how to evade detection by law enforcement. According to the complaint, Bibbs did so because he believed that Schaefer would gain access to Von Wiese’s estate through the victim’s daughter, Mack, and that Schaefer would share the inheritance with family members, including Bibbs.
On Aug. 13, 2014, Schaefer and Mack were arrested in Bali. In April 2015, an Indonesian court convicted Schaefer and Mack of charges related to Von Wiese’s murder. Schaefer was sentenced to 18 years in an Indonesian prison, while Mack was sentenced to 10 years.
Bibbs was arrested today by federal authorities. He is scheduled to make an initial court appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez today at 3 p.m. CDT.
Texts also showed the premeditation "Let me just creep up and whack her," Schaefer texted to Mack moments before the killing. "Okay just knock her out," Mack replied.
The FBI complaint shows that Mack offered $50,000 to have her mother killed. View the FBI Complaint against Robert Ryan Justin Bibbs - The PDF criminal complaint is our Cruise Laws website Pdf file.