Chicago woman, boyfriend charged in murder of mother in Bali


Sheila von Wiese-Mack featured in May 2013 issue of the Journal of the Caxton Club. Photo used with permission.

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It was supposed to be a getaway filled with good times, but it ended abruptly — in murder.

Now charges are filed in the death of a Chicago woman found stuffed in a suitcase in Bali, Indonesia. The woman’s daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend are being held responsible.

The members of St. Chrysostom’s Episcopal Church cannot seem to shake the gruesome image: the body of Sheile von Wiese-Mack, 62, reduced to this bloody suitcase.

“Just grief strickened and shocked,” Rev. Wes Smedley said. “But mostly just sad.”

Von Wiese-Mack’s body was discovered earlier this week by a Bali cab driver. The mother had been vacationing with her daughter Heather Mack, 19, and her daughter’s boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, 21.

Authorities in Indonesia announced Friday the teenage couple is now charged with von Wiese-Mack’s murder. Authorities said von Wiese-Mack died after being hit in the head and face with a blunt object.

The family’s church was left in shock.

“Sheila shared with me as many parents do, concern for Heather,” Smedley said. “It was never in too much detail.”

The family used to live in Oak Park, where police said 86 9-1-1 calls had been placed between 2004 and 2013, everything from missing persons reports to theft calls and even hang-up calls. No one was ever arrested.

Smedley said von Wiese-Mack looked heavily to her church family for support.

“Heather might have been away from the house for a long period of time. A couple of days or something,” Smedley said. “It’s just a mom’s concern for her child.”

Church members said the mother-daughter troubles escalated after the 2006 death of her father, jazz performer James Mack.

Authorities said Heather Mack and Schaefer’s fate will be left in the hands of a panel of judges. If convicted, they could be put to death by firing squad.

“It’s been much more about grieving the loss of Sheila and prayerfully holding up Heather for her own healing and wholeness in the midst of this,” Smedley said. “We believe no one is lost to God.”

Complications now persist for Bali authorities because Heather Mack now says she is pregnant.

St. Chrysostom’s hopes to recover von Wiese-Mack’s body so they can have funeral services. The longtime member will be remembered during services Sunday.

RELATED: Daughter, boyfriend held after Chicago-area woman found dead in suitcase

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