The surviving siblings of Sheila Von Wiese-Mack, the Chicago woman found beaten to death and stuffed in a suitcase in Bali, told NBC 5 Investigates they are trying to help another “victim”: the eight-month-old daughter of their sister’s convicted killers, Heather Mack and Tommy Schaefer.
In an exclusive interview with NBC 5 Investigates, Debbie Curran and Bill Wiese spoke openly about their feelings toward their niece, Mack, and their concerns regarding Mack raising her daughter, Stella, in a Bali prison. (According to Indonesian law, imprisoned mothers can raise a child behind bars up until the child turns two years old.)
“I would love for Stella to have a happy childhood and be with a family that loves her and I think prison is not a place for a baby, a toddler,” said Debbie Curran, sister of Sheila Von Wiese-Mack.
The family said it is willing to provide financially for Stella, who was born earlier this year in Indonesia. A Cook County court-appointed guardian is coordinating efforts with an aid group that is currently assisting Heather Mack in providing food and doctors’ visits for Stella, who is said to be a healthy girl.
Heather, however, has not made an announcement regarding the placement of Stella with another family.
“Stella is a victim and we’re trying to do all we can to help Stella,” Wiese said.
A Bali court convicted Mack and her boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, for their roles in the murder of her mother, Sheila. They are serving ten and eighteen year prison terms, respectively, in Bali.
Wiese said his niece never personally contacted the family following the murder of his sister. Yet he added he would not know what to say to Mack if she called him.
Recent images posted to Instagram show Mack smiling while wearing civilian clothes, apparently not in a prison setting.
“I really see just a lack of remorse,” Wiese said. “It seems like it’s a party over there and there’s no remorse at all.”
Sheila and her younger siblings grew up in suburban Detroit before moving to Milwaukee. Wiese and Curran said growing up their sister loved books and school.
Sheila earned graduate degrees and later married composer James Mack. She was 43 years old when she became mother to Heather in 1995.
“She loved life. She loved her family. She loved her daughter,” Curran said.
James Mack passed away in 2006.
Wiese and Curran said they knew of a troubled relationship between their sister and Heather Mack, but did not know the extent of it.
During their separate criminal trials, Mack and Schaefer testified that Sheila became angry upon learning of her daughter’s pregnancy. They testified that Sheila choked Schaefer and prosecutors said Schaefer responded by beating Sheila with a metal fruit bowl handle.
In September, Schaefer’s cousin, Robert Bibbs of Chicago, was charged with aiding Schaefer and Mack in the murder of von Wiese-Mack. U.S. investigators released text messages exchanged between Bibbs and Schaefer. Investigators said Bibbs advised the couple about how to kill Mack’s mother. According to the affidavit, Bibbs believed he would gain access to Von Wiese-Mack’s estate through Mack.
Bibbs pleaded not guilty and is currently free on home confinement.
Meantime, Sheila’s family members said they have decades of memories and lots of photographs of their sister.
“A piece of my heart is gone because Sheila’s gone,” Curran said.
Both Curran and her brother said Sheila would have been a wonderful grandmother.