Friend of ‘suitcase murder’ victim discusses Heather Mack arrest

Morning In America

(NewsNation Now) —Sheila von Wiese-Mack’s badly beaten body was found in a suitcase inside the trunk of a taxi parked at the upscale St. Regis Bali Resort in August of 2014.

Her daughter, Heather Mack, now 26, was released from prison in Indonesia on Oct. 29 after serving seven years and two months of a 10-year sentence for helping to kill her mother.

Heather’s then-boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, was also convicted in the “suitcase murder,” sentenced to 18 years and remains in prison.

Mack was arrested upon her return to the Chicago area Wednesday.

“I thought it was a step in the right direction,” Elliot Jacobson, a friend of Von Wiese-Mack, said during an appearance on “Morning in America” about Mack’s arrest.

“That now she’s facing a trial, an American trial in which there’ll be real defense, real prosecution, a jury and a judge, in which evidence is the determining factor as to a person’s guilt or innocence,” he said. “I think it now allows, at long last, that she’ll receive the justice that she should have received in the first place.”

Mack and Schaefer were indicted in the Northern District of Illinois with one count of conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, one count of conspiracy to commit foreign murder of a U.S. national and one count of obstruction.

Prosecutors say they conspired to split Von Wiese-Mack’s $1.5 million estate.

“I’ve known Sheila since 1983, when I came to Chicago from California for a job. And I’ve known Sheila ever since until the day she passed away,” Jacobson said. “I even spoke to her before she boarded the flight to Bali.”

Jacobson also said he has known Mack “since she was born.”

Jacobson didn’t want to speculation on what the outcome of Mack’s trial should be, saying, “That’s up to a jury and a court to decide.”

” I just want to see the trial move on and present the evidence one way or the other,” Jacobson continued. “And come to the conclusion that the trial was fair, which it was decidedly not in Bali.”

“Indonesia has a reputation for a very suspect judicial system,” Jacobson said. “And here in the United States, we’re pretty confident that there’ll be a real trial.”

Mack was almost 19 and a few weeks pregnant at the time of the killing. She gave birth shortly after being convicted.

The baby girl, Stella Schaefer, was born by cesarean at 5 lbs. 10 oz. and healthy, according to one of Mack’s attorneys at the time, Anthony Scifo.

Indonesian law allowed the child to live with Mack, in her cell in Kerobokan prison until she turned 2 years old. After that, Mack gave custody of her young daughter to an Australian woman until her release from prison.

“I think Sheila would have wanted the granddaughter to be completely extracted by the authorities from this entire environment, and all the people who are participants in this environment,” Jacobson said.

Jacobson proposes placing Stella in a program similar to witness protection, “where she would be given a new identity.”

“A two-parent family capable of raising her,” Jacobson said would be “giving her an opportunity to have a normal life, which she has decidedly not had from the minute she was born.”

A custody battle is now brewing.

“We will argue before a judge in Cook County that what’s in the best interest for Stella is to maintain this consistent, loving, nurturing environment that she’s been in with her foster mom for six years,” Brian Claypool, Mack’s attorney, said to NewsNation affiliate WGN,

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At an arraignment Wednesday, Mack pleaded not guilty to the charges and U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle ordered that she remain in custody until a detention hearing on Nov. 10.

Claypool said Wednesday that the federal charges are “clearly a witch hunt” in response to public pressure after Mack’s release from prison.

Von Wiese-Mack’s brother and sister said in a statement to NewsNation:

“We are forever thankful to all the FBI agents and the U.S. Justice Department officers who’ve spent endless hours finding and preserving evidence as well as searching for the truth in order to obtain meaningful justice for Sheila.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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