The grisly tale of an American mom murdered and stuffed into suitcase in Indonesia
Heather Louis Mack at a police station in Bali, Indonesia, on Aug. 14, 2014. (European Pressphoto Agency/MADE NAGI)
The house, from the outside, looks peaceful. Broad, tan and two stories high, an image shows
the $650,000-home sitting behind a tall oak tree in the Chicago
neighbor of Oak Park. But inside, where a mother and daughter shared a
combustible and allegedly violent relationship, it wasn’t as peaceful. According
to the Chicago Tribune, police had visited the home 86 times since
2004, sometimes for domestic issues presumably involving mother Sheila
von Wiese Mack and daughter Heather Mack.
The fights ranged from
Mack’s infrequent attendance at school to her 21-year-old boyfriend,
Tommy “Exx” Schaefer. “Police were here all the time,” one neighbor told
the Tribune. “They would call police on each other. It turned very
abusive and volatile.” Once, the mother’s arm was broken in a fight with
Their relationship ended Tuesday with von Wiese
Mack’s body stuffed inside a bloody suitcase, the arrests of the
daughter and her boyfriend, and a ballooning media storm swirling
over the Indonesian island of Bali, where they had vacationed at a posh
resort. Mack and her boyfriend are currently undergoing questioning by
Indonesian police for “deliberately causing someone’s death,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Neither has been charged with a crime.
The grisly murder left onlookers grasping for answers with little
information to go on. What precipitated the mother’s death? Was her
murder premeditated or sudden? And did her daughter and her boyfriend do
The suitcase in which the body of a woman was found in Bali. (Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)
As investigators try to piece together what happened, several portraits of the suspects have emerged, primarily on social media.
Schaefer, a rapper, uploaded several videos of his work to YouTube. Born in 1993, he’s described on his Web site.
“Standing 6’4, Tommy Exx was a baller in high school and was your
prototypical ‘hip hop head’ his entire life,” the site read. He said he
dropped out of college after finding it “difficult and disappointing” to
concentrate on his music.
His girlfriend, Heather Mack, 19, according to reports, was difficult to discipline while in high school. According
to NBC News, she would disappear for days, leaving her mother frantic.
“At least four or five of us would say kick her out,” one acquaintance
recalls telling the mother. “She was hanging out with a bad crowd. But
Sheila always took her back. [Heather] could be charming and
self-effacingly sweet one minute, and then a vicious little monster the
In December of last year, the mother wrote to a friend, according
to an e-mail obtained by the Chicago Tribune. “Another crisis with
Heather,” the mother wrote. “She has not been in school for over a month
and yesterday was consumed with trying to keep her safe. I am trying to
get her homebound tutoring once again.”
Mother and daughter,
despite their volatile relationship, loved to travel together. It was a
family tradition — one they maintained after Mack’s husband, a jazz
composer named James Mack, died in 2006 while on vacation in Greece, reported the Tribune.
They made for Indonesia on Aug. 4, checking into the St. Regis Hotel in
Bali. It’s unclear under what circumstances Schaefer came along, but on
July 21, he posted
on Facebook: “Leaving Aug 4th for Indonesia might not come backkk.” He
had trouble obtaining his passport, according to his Facebook account,
and he arrived days later on Aug. 11.
By then, drama was already
brewing. “I refuse to let someone say what I can do,” daughter Heather
Mack wrote in an an Instagram post reported by the Daily Mail. “Gettin money my attitude you know what it do #bali.”
Indonesian police officer, right, escorts Tommy Schaefer, left, to a
police station in Bali on Wednesday, 2014. (Firdia Lisnawati/Associated
The morning after Schaefer showed up at the hotel, police said the group argued publicly. The Sydney Morning Herald reported the mother said she had paid for Schaefer to come to Bali and thought the couple should pick up the hotel bill.
later, at 11:26 a.m., hotel footage showed the young couple lugging a
large, gray suitcase draped in a hotel bedsheet. They wanted to check
out right away — without paying their bill, which they said Heather’s
mother would pay — and wouldn’t let anyone handle the suitcase but them.
They also wanted access to the security box, where police suspect their
passports were kept, but the request was denied, the Herald reported.
they plopped the suitcase into a taxi and allegedly slipped out the
back of the hotel, hailing another taxi for the airport, where they
asked immigration for new passports.
Meanwhile, the taxi driver
began to suspect the pair and the suitcase wasn’t what it seemed. Blood
had soaked through the sheet — and the police were called.
9 p.m., the cops caught up to the young couple, who were sleeping at a
hotel near where they had stayed with Mack’s mother. They originally
told police an armed gang had killed the woman, but they had managed to
escape. But “that is inconsistent with the facts we found at the scene,”
Denpasar police chief Djoko Hariutomo told reporters.
On the way to the police station, the Chicago Tribune said Schaefer posted a video to the Internet shot while inside the cop car. He called his arrest a “pig stop.”