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US woman in Bali ‘suitcase murder’ freed from jail

After serving seven years of a ten-year sentence for assisting in the murder of her mother on Indonesia’s tourist island of Bali in 2014, an American lady was released from prison on Friday and will be deported to the United States.

In August 2014, the heavily battered body of Sheila von Wiese-Mack, a wealthy Chicago socialite, was discovered inside the trunk of a cab parked at the luxurious St. Regis Bali Resort.

Heather Mack, who was almost 19 and pregnant at the time, and her then-21-year-old boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, were apprehended the next day after being discovered at a hotel around 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the St. Regis.

The pair had clashed with the girl’s mother in the hotel lobby just before the death, which is said to have taken place inside a room in the hotel, according to police.

Mack was convicted to ten years in prison in Indonesia for assisting Schaefer in the murder of her mother and stuffing the body in a suitcase. Schaefer was convicted to 18 years imprisonment.

Stella Schaefer, their daughter, was born just before her parents were convicted in 2015. Mack handed custody of her baby daughter to an Australian woman until she was released from prison, and she was permitted to remain with her mother in her cell in Kerobokan female prison until she became two years old.

Mack and her mother had a tumultuous relationship, with police being called to the family’s Oak Park, Illinois, home dozens of times, according to officials.

In 2016, Robert Bibbs, Schaefer’s cousin, pled guilty to assisting in the planning of the murder in exchange for $50,000 that Mack was anticipated to inherit, and was sentenced to nine years in prison the following year.

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On Friday morning, Mack, now 26, was taken through a throng of media outside the Kerobokan Female Prison in Denpasar, Bali’s provincial capital, into a waiting car that transported her to an immigration office near the international airport.

She offered no response to reporters while wearing a mask, sunglasses, and an immigration deportee’s orange vest, other than to scream, “Oh my God… you’re insane!” from the vantage point of the car’s window

Mack’s friends, including Oshar Putu Melody Suartama, an Australian lady married to a Balinese man who has been raising Stella, were seen greeting her outside the prison.

Mack’s sentence was reduced by 34 months as a result of reductions that are frequently granted to prisoners on major holidays for good behavior, including a six-month remission of sentence awarded during Indonesia’s Independence Day in August, according to Lili, the prison chief warden, who goes by one name.

Mack was eligible to a sentence reduction under Indonesian law for good behavior, according to Lili, and Mack also participated in activities organized by correctional personnel, such as staging fashion shows exhibiting inmates’ designs and teaching them to dance.

When she was set to depart, Mack was surprised, sad, and scared, but “we all cheered her on and told her that everything would be fine,” she said.

“Heather used to remark that prison has changed her life a lot,” Lili added. “She loves Indonesia and the people who have surrounding her all these years, and she will miss us so much.”

According to Amrizal, the chief of the Bali immigration office for the Ministry of Law and Human Rights, Mack will have to stay at the Immigration Detention Center for a few days while awaiting airplane tickets and travel paperwork.

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Amrizal, who goes by one name like many Indonesians, said his office was working with the US consulate in Bali to repatriate the woman and kid.

Because prison visits were suspended during the coronavirus outbreak, Mack has not seen her daughter in over 20 months, but Indonesian law now permits for their reunion now that Mack has been released. Mack had requested that the girl remain with her foster family to avoid public attention, according to her attorney, Yulius Benyamin Seran.

Amrizal, on the other hand, stated that Indonesian legislation would prevent this. “When toddlers’ mothers are repatriated, they must be escorted by their mothers; there is no policy that allows a woman to leave her underage child here.”

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