#CrimeTime with Alicia Dean
Passport to Murder, Season 1, Episode 1, Nightmare in Bali
August 12, 2014, Bali, Indonesia
Wealthy Chicago socialite, Sheila Von Wiese-Mack, and her daughter, Heather Mack, have a strained relationship. Heather’s dad died when she was ten and she grew up troubled. Hoping to repair their relationship, Sheila books a lavish trip to Bali for just the two of them.
Eight days into their trip, tragedy strikes. A taxi driver reports a suspicious suitcase left in the back of his cab. Police arrive and find the bloody. bludgeoned, half-nude corpse of Shelia Von Wiese-Mack. Authorities learn Sheila’s daughter was on vacation with her and begin a search, concerned for her safety as well.
A tip leads them to a hotel seven miles away. They enter the room, expecting to find Heather held captive. Instead, they find her in bed with a young man, who turns out to be Tommy Schaefer, her boyfriend from Chicago. Unbeknownst to her mother, Heather used Sheila’s credit card to book Tommy a flight and hotel to Bali as well. When Sheila discovered this, she was livid. She didn’t approve of Tommy anyway, and it wasn’t the first time Heather had stolen and used her credit cards.
Further investigation uncovered the true facts of Sheila’s death. Heather and Tommy planned it together, thinking Heather would inherit her mother’s fortune. Surveillance video showed Tommy entering Sheila and Heather’s room with a bulging item beneath his shirt. Heather had let him in, and he used the item–a metal fruit bowl–to beat Sheila to death. The couple thought they could flee Bali with Sheila’s money, but the hotel staff refused them access to Sheila’s safe, before her murder was even discovered, where their passports and the cash had been secured.
The couple were arrested, and Heather was now pregnant. The trial was held in Bali. The killers were facing the possibility of death by firing squad. They were found guilty but, because of their age and Heather’s pregnancy, they were not given the death penalty. Instead, Tommy was sentenced to eighteen years, Heather to ten. Heather would keep her baby in prison with her until the child turned two, then the child would be taken into foster care until Heather was released, at which time the child would be returned to her.
This is appalling to me. The vicious killers go from facing a firing squad to getting what amounts to a slap on the wrist? Eighteen and ten years? Heather’s daughter will be returned to her? I’m baffled. There was mention of the trauma suffered when her father died and what an impact that had on her life. Sad, yes, but what if everyone who lost a parent at a young age murdered their remaining parent? Heather and Tommy were not children. She was nineteen years old, he was twenty-one. They were both adults. They planned this and carried it out, viciously and without remorse. They even laughed and made faces for the cameras after their arrest. Authorities discovered that, prior to the Bali trip, the two attempted to hire a hit man to murder Sheila.
For years, Heather had been abusing her mother. The police were called to the home more than 80 times. This is not some childish, spur of the moment impulse for which she later showed regret. Heather Mack is a cold, calculating murderer. And now, she’ll be raising a daughter and will likely abuse her. Heather did not end up inheriting any of her mother’s estate…it will all go to her child. She killed once for that same fortune. It’s no big leap to think she’ll do it again.
What do you think? Am I being too harsh, or was their punishment not harsh enough?