Suitcase Slaying: Police Files Show Daughter Abused Late Mother Repeatedly
By Matthew Walberg, Chicago Tribune
In the years before she would be implicated in the beating death of her mother on the resort island of Bali, Heather Mack was accused of locking her mother in a closet, stealing thousands of dollars from her, punching and biting her repeatedly, and once pushing her to the ground so hard that she broke her arm, according to newly released police reports.
Yet Sheila von Wiese-Mack remained reluctant to press charges or have her daughter admitted to a hospital for mental health treatment, according to the Oak Park, Ill., police reports, which date from 2008 to 2013.
Indeed, in late 2012, von Wiese-Mack refused to allow a police officer to photograph a bruise on her wrist that she said was from her daughter biting her. She told an officer that, while she knew her daughter needed help, she didn’t want her arrested because she didn’t think jailing her ultimately would help.
The police reports offer details of a fractious relationship that friends have suggested over the past week deeply frustrated von Wiese-Mack. Although the reports suggest that Mack was receiving counseling and had even been hospitalized at least twice, in the end they portray a mother at her wit’s end to control her troubled young daughter.
Last Tuesday, von Wiese-Mack’s badly beaten body was found stuffed in a suitcase that had been left in the trunk of a taxi at a luxury hotel in Bali. Heather Mack, 18, and her 21-year-old boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, were arrested the next day and will stand trial in her death, according to Indonesian authorities. The two have not been formally charged under Indonesian law.
The police reports show that von Wiese-Mack and her daughter argued and fought over typical parent-child issues, though their dealings often escalated.
Von Wiese-Mack tried to limit her daughter’s time on her phone and computer, discovered her daughter skipping school and sometimes running away from home, according to the reports. At the same time, some incidents were far more serious. Von Wiese-Mack told police that she found Mack taking nude photos of herself and sometimes even stealing her money, credit cards, and jewelry.
At times, Mack allegedly struck, bit or shoved her mother.
In January of 2010, what began as a verbal altercation quickly turned violent when Mack allegedly punched her mother in her mother’s broken left ankle, according to one report.
Authorities recommended that Mack be admitted to a hospital, but von Wiese-Mack “refused to allow Heather to be hospitalized,” the report stated. The report concluded with the notation from the officer that “both parties agreed to get along.”
But whatever peace may have descended on the home was short-lived.
Her mother called police on several more occasions in 2010 to report thefts at her home, including more than $1,000 she had been saving to give to her daughter. Von Wiese-Mack told police she suspected her daughter took the money.
In November 2010, the mother called police to her home after she walked in on Mack allegedly taking partially nude photos of herself on her computer, according to the police reports. At the time, von Wiese-Mack told police her daughter was a witness in a pending lawsuit over her father’s death, and that her behavior had worsened as a result.
In February 2011, Oak Park police arrested the daughter after she allegedly pushed her mother to the floor during an argument, causing her mother to break her arm. Von Wiese-Mack told officers that, after she was injured, Heather Mack had pulled the cords out of the phone to prevent her from calling 911.
In April 2011, von Wiese-Mack called police after an argument in which her daughter allegedly bit her. She said it was not the first time, and that her daughter once threatened that she would stop biting and would instead just hit her in the head.
In July 2011, after Mack allegedly threatened to hurt von Wiese-Mack and police came to the home, the mother told officers that Mack had been hospitalized twice and was getting some kind of treatment — the reports did not specify what kind — but that it was not working, according to the reports. There even was an outburst at a parent-teacher conference, where Mack reportedly cursed her mother and the teacher and then left school.
In November 2012, von Wiese-Mack again called police to report that her daughter had bitten her, leaving a large red bruise on her wrist. But the woman refused to press charges or pursue the matter, telling officers that “she does not believe ‘Heather going to jail’ will help the situation.” Another report quoted von Wiese-Mack telling officers that her daughter suffered from depression.
Earlier this year, according to a police report, an acquaintance from high school called police to say he crossed paths with Mack and Schaefer in a Wendy’s parking lot when Schaefer made racial comments and threatened him.
None of the incidents approached the violence that authorities in Indonesia have alleged that Mack and Schaefer committed in the death of von Wiese-Mack.
Authorities have said camera footage shows von Weise-Mack arguing with her daughter’s boyfriend in the hotel lobby in Bali the day before she was found dead.
The couple told police that Mack’s mother had been murdered by gang members but they managed to escape. But witnesses told police that the couple placed the suitcase containing von-Wiese’s body in the trunk of the taxi, authorities have said.
Von Wiese-Mack’s body is expected to be sent back to the United States to be examined by the FBI, according to CBS News. It is unclear when the body will arrive on U.S. soil.
On Monday, Michael Elkin, a Chicago-based attorney who said he represents Mack, said in a statement that his client had suffered abuse and had been sexually assaulted while in police custody.
Elkin said in the statement that over the course of several conversations with Mack, she told him she was sexually assaulted since her arrest and that she noticed what appeared to be needle marks on her body that she could not explain.
The attorney also said Mack told him she was not getting proper nourishment.
“I asked why she sounded incoherent at times,” Elkin said in his written statement. “She said that she was not getting enough water. She also mentioned that she was being given ‘vitamin pills,’ but could not identify what they were for.”
Police officials in Bali have denied that Mack or Schaefer have been mistreated, according to reports.
Mack grew up in Oak Park with her mother and father, noted jazz composer James Mack, who died in 2006 on a family vacation in Greece.
AFP Photo/Sonny Tumbelaka
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