It was nearly 3:30 a.m., and Sheila von Wiese-Mack was having another sleepless night. Hours earlier, she and her daughter had argued, and the teen still hadn’t returned to their high-rise condo along Chicago’s lakefront.
As she had so many times in the past, the worried parent tapped out an email to a close friend in which she described her anguish concerning her only child, Heather Mack.
“Heather was violent again … Smashed several items in my home, threw things at me and left,” she wrote last March 28. “Heather is in grave danger – and so am I.”
Her words proved prophetic. Less than five months later, von Wiese-Mack’s battered body was found stuffed inside a blood-smeared suitcase at a luxury Bali beachfront resort where she and her daughter were vacationing.
The teenager and her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, who arrived separately on the Indonesian island, are charged with premeditated murder.
In trial testimony last week, Schaefer admitted he inflicted the fatal blows in August, but he said the 62-year-old woman attacked him first after she learned her daughter was pregnant. He and Mack testified that she made a racial slur and threatened to harm their unborn baby.
But a Tribune review of emails, police reports and interviews suggests von Wiese-Mack knew about her daughter’s pregnancy several days before they left for vacation.
Her friend, Elliott Jacobson, provided the Tribune more than 150 emails he said he received from von Wiese-Mack that chronicle her tumultuous relationship with her daughter. The correspondence also shows her efforts to help Mack, whom the mother months before her death named as sole beneficiary to a $1.56 million trust fund.
Von Wiese-Mack became a single parent in 2006 after her husband, jazz composer James Mack, died during a family vacation in Greece. Their daughter was 10. By age 14, police reports showed, officers began responding to her childhood home in Oak Park for disturbances involving truancy, running away, violence and thefts of cash, credit cards and jewelry.
The emails provided by Jacobson mainly focus on the final 17 months of von Wiese-Mack’s life after she moved to Chicago in 2013 and the discord continued. Three emails reference the pregnancy. In her last emails, sent from Bali days before her death, she accused her daughter of erratic, violent behavior.
Source: Chicago Tribune | Christy Gutowski