Heather Mack to remain in federal custody in Chicago

Heather Mack will remain in federal custody for now after a hearing Wednesday brought her face-to-face with her murdered mother’s siblings for the first time since 2014.

U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle had scheduled Wednesday’s hearing so lawyers could argue over whether Mack should be released pending trial. Mack, 26, is under indictment for plotting the overseas killing of her mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack.

But soon after the hearing began, a prosecutor told the judge that both sides had agreed to Mack’s ongoing detention. She is free to ask for her release again in the future, but former federal prosecutors have told the Chicago Sun-Times the odds of her release are slim.

The hearing took place in the stately 25th-floor ceremonial courtroom of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse. Mack appeared in orange jail garb, wearing a white face mask with her hair in a ponytail. Her legs were again shackled.

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At times, Mack seemed to direct her gaze toward the corner of the courtroom where her mothers’ siblings, William Wiese and Debbi Curran, were seated. The pair later appeared before reporters in the courthouse lobby, where Wiese said they were "incredibly relieved and appreciative that this decision was reached."

"As difficult as this is for our family and all of Sheila’s friends, we are pleased that Sheila will finally have her day in court," Wiese said.

In a separate statement shared later, Wiese and Curran also said seeing Mack for the first time since 2014 "was very difficult and emotional, but we did it for Sheila and our parents. It is one of the necessary steps toward justice and healing for our family."

Mack herself spoke only briefly during Wednesday’s hearing, when she confirmed for the judge that she did not wish to say anything substantive.

"Correct, your honor," she said.

Heather Mack (C) of the US is escorted by Immigration guards from the Kerobokan prison in Jimbaran, on the resort island of Bali on October 29, 2021. (Photo by SONNY TUMBELAKA / AFP) (Photo by SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP via Getty Images)

Despite having just been released after serving seven years in an Indonesian prison, Mack should be prepared for another long stay, this time in the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Assistant U.S. Attorney Terry Kinney told Norgle Wednesday that evidence in Mack’s case is "truly, truly voluminous." Her defense attorneys will need time to review it.

For now, her next court date is Jan. 18. She has been held since her arrest in Chicago’s downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center.

Von Wiese-Mack’s body was discovered in a suitcase left outside the St. Regis Bali Resort on Aug. 12, 2014. Mack and her then-boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, were arrested the next day. Mack was pregnant with Schaefer’s daughter, Stella, at the time, and she gave birth during the couple’s Indonesian trial that followed in 2015.

Schaefer was sentenced to 18 years in prison for beating von Wiese-Mack to death, and Mack was sentenced to 10 years for helping. Mack was released from her Indonesian prison in late October, and Schaefer remains behind bars overseas.


The Sun-Times reported the existence of a U.S. investigation into von Wiese-Mack’s death in August 2015. And as a flight carrying Mack neared O’Hare Airport last week, a three-count indictment against Mack and Schaefer was unsealed in U.S. District Court.

Federal prosecutors have said von Wiese-Mack was bludgeoned to death with the metal handle of a fruit stand so that Mack, Schaefer and Schaefer’s cousin, Robert Bibbs, could enrich themselves with the proceeds of von Wiese-Mack’s $1.5 million estate.

Bibbs was prosecuted in Chicago’s federal court for encouraging and advising the couple on the murder from the United States. He was sentenced in 2017 to nine years in prison.