Bali Suitcase Murder: Heather Mack Says She's Focusing on Newborn Daughter as Possible Execution Looms
"I can only hope and pray that the truth comes out and will be recognized by the judges," she tells PEOPLE
In the final hours before Heather Mack – on trial in Indonesia for the murder of her mother – learns whether she’ll face a firing squad, the Chicago teen tells PEOPLE that tending to her newborn daughter keeps her from dwelling on what the coming day may bring.
“I’m busy taking care of [my baby] Stella,” Mack tells PEOPLE from her prison cell in Bali’s Kerobokan Prison. “That’s what’s really on my mind now.
“I feel overwhelmed a lot, though,” she adds. “I can only hope and pray that the truth comes out and will be recognized by the judges. That’s the overwhelming part, hoping that the truth will be recognized.”
The bloodied body of Mack’s mother, 62-year-old Sheila von Wiese-Mack, was discovered inside a suitcase in the back of a cab outside the St. Regis Bali resort on Aug. 12. Mack, 19, and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, 21, were apprehended by police at another hotel the next day.
A decision from the three-judge panel that will decide the fate of the couple – charged with premeditated murder – is expected to be announced on April 21. Although prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty – they are asking for a 15-year sentence for Mack and an 18-year sentence for Schaefer – there’s a chance that the judges overseeing the case could order the couple to be executed.
Mack’s defense attorney told the judges that Schaefer killed von Wiese-Mack following an argument over Heather’s pregnancy and that no evidence exists to show that the couple planned the murder in advance. When the fight turned violent, the lawyer said, Mack hid in the bathroom of the hotel suite.
Mack, who gave birth on March 18, is allowed to keep the child with her in her cell for two years. Despite an outpouring of criticism over her decision to care for the infant in prison, the teenage mother explains that she couldn’t bear the thought of relinquishing the care of her daughter to someone else.
“I don’t want to separate my family,” Mack says before excusing herself for a moment to go burp the infant. “It’s too painful to think about having to be separated from my angel … The Indonesians have treated me in a decent, humane manner, and I’m grateful to the authorities for being so understanding.”
Mack isn’t the only mother at the prison. “There’s another woman here with a child, who is about a year old,” she says. “We’re allowed to walk around a little courtyard with our children, which helps when Stella gets colicky.”
Mack’s Chicago-based attorneys are filing papers today on behalf of their client to turn over 30 percent of her $1.3 million trust fund to help provide care for her infant daughter.
“Whatever your opinion of the adults in this case,” says attorney Vanessa Favia, “I believe everyone would agree that the baby bears no culpability in this truly sad affair.”
Mack’s criminal defense attorney Michael Elkin insists that his client’s decision to transfer a portion of her trust fund to her daughter isn’t an admission of guilt. “Now that the prosecution and defense have rested, Heather says she no longer wants to wait,” says Elkin. “Heather wants Stella to be provided for, regardless of what people may think of her.”
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