Heather Mack, imprisoned in her mother’s grisly Bali murder, expected to be released early

Heather Mack initially faced a possible fate of death by firing squad for her role in the killing of her mother, whose body was found stuffed in a suitcase during a luxury Bali vacation. But, just seven years later, Mack may soon be a free woman again.

The former Chicago woman expects to be released from a Bali prison in October, three years early based on good-behavior credits, her attorney Vanessa Favia said Tuesday.

Favia said Mack will be deported upon release and is considering returning to the Chicago area with her daughter, Stella, now 6, though she has “no definite plans yet.”

If Mack returns to the United States, she may face additional scrutiny. Despite her conviction, the Tribune reported in 2017 that the FBI had filed a search warrant seeking to extract information from Mack’s phone as part of an ongoing investigation into the murder in part “to determine whether additional people may have been aware of and involved in the conspiracy.”

The August 2014 murder of her mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62, made headlines around the world. Relatives said the widow of acclaimed composer James L. Mack had brought their then-teenage daughter to the tropical island in an effort to mend their troubled relationship. Instead, unbeknownst to the victim, her daughter’s boyfriend showed up late in the vacation, about eight hours before the murder.

An Indonesian jury convicted the young couple in April 2015. Tommy Schaefer, now 28, formerly of Oak Park, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for the fatal beating and Mack, now 25, received a 10-year sentence for aiding him in her mother’s brutal death.

Later, federal prosecutors in Chicago charged Schaefer’s cousin, Robert Bibbs, for helping in the murder plot. The FBI learned of Bibbs’ involvement after analyzing the text messages found on Mack’s and Schaefer’s phones.

Bibbs, 30, is serving a nine-year prison sentence in Michigan for coaching the defendants on how to carry out the murder in return for a share of the anticipated multimillion-dollar estate. He is eligible for parole Dec. 26, 2024.

Schaefer tearfully testified during his murder trial in Indonesia that von Wiese-Mack became angry when he went to her hotel room and told her that Mack was pregnant with his child. Schaefer said he struck her with the handle of a heavy metal fruit bowl in self-defense.

But emails obtained by the Tribune show von Wiese-Mack was aware of her daughter’s pregnancy before the trip to Bali, and federal authorities later released in court filings incriminating text messages between the young couple before the killing. The former lovers refer to themselves in the texts as “Bonnie and Clyde,” a nod to the 1930s outlaw couple.

“Literally cant wait,” Heather Mack said of her mother’s planned demise, according to a federal affidavit.

After the murder, Schaefer and Mack stuffed the woman’s body in a suitcase before ditching the remains in a taxi at the resort. They were arrested the next morning at a nearby budget motel, where they used the slain woman’s credit card to pay for the room.

Mack gave birth to her daughter, Stella, in March 2015. Under Indonesian custom, authorities allowed the girl to remain in the prison with her parents until her second birthday. A local family in Indonesia has raised her, with both of the child’s parents having regular contact.

James Mack, 76, the composer, died in 2006 in Athens, Greece, after suffering a pulmonary embolism while on vacation, according to his Chicago Tribune obituary.

Heather Mack was 10 at the time and in recent years has accused her mother of squandering Mack’s inheritance. Police reports in Chicago and Oak Park, where Mack grew up, show a history of domestic problems between mother and daughter.

Months before her death, Sheila von Wiese-Mack tapped her brother, Bill, to serve as trustee of a $1.56 million trust fund of which her daughter was sole beneficiary. From her Bali cell, Heather Mack fought her uncle for years to gain access to the money. During the court battle, a judge allowed her to have about $150,000 to put toward her criminal defense.

After multiple hearings involving several attorneys and court experts, only about half of the money was left by the time a settlement was reached. The terms were kept confidential, but available court records made it clear Mack would not receive anything. Instead, her daughter Stella was named beneficiary.

In a statement, Bill Wiese told the Tribune that he is not surprised by his niece’s early release. Wiese, an attorney, has long accused Indonesian authorities of accepting money in return for a reduced sentence. He said the family has not received official confirmation from Indonesian authorities.

“I believe Heather’s original 10-year sentence was a travesty of justice and likely influenced by the outrageously large amount ($150,000) that the Chicago judge ordered to be sent to Indonesia for her defense,” he said in a statement.

It continued, “As the U.S. State Department and other experts have repeatedly concluded in their reports, Indonesia’s entire judicial system is very corrupt, so I would not be surprised if the prosecutor, judges and prison officials involved in her case received some of that money in return for reduced sentences and other benefits. I have no knowledge of that, but other defendants have received much harsher sentences and treatment for lesser crimes.”

Wiese said he has not had contact with Mack, nor does he want to. “Our hearts continue to go out to Stella and we hope she can be raised in a safe and loving environment,” he said.

Chicago Tribune’s Jason Meisner contributed.