Updated 08/13/14 – 6:40 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — A Chicago woman was beaten to death while on an exotic vacation in Indonesia; her body was found stuffed in a suitcase outside an upscale hotel in Bali, and police are questioning her teenage daughter and her daughter’s boyfriend.
CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports Sheila von Wiese-Mack, 62, and her 19-year-old daughter Heather Mack flew to Bali together to stay at the St. Regis Bali resort for what was supposed to be a fun, relaxing vacation.
But authorities in Indonesia said the trip ended with von Wiese-Mack being beaten to death, and her body being stuffed in a suitcase. An autopsy showed she died of blunt force trauma to the head.
Von Wiese-Mack and her daughter had been staying at the St. Regis for a few days when Mack’s boyfriend, 21-year-old Tommy Schaefer, showed up on Monday, and checked in to a separate room.
Police said what happened when Mack and Schaefer checked out Tuesday triggered a full-blown murder investigation.
The couple hailed a taxi Tuesday afternoon, loaded the trunk with their suitcases, and then told the driver they were going into the hotel to check out.
After approximately two hours, when they had not returned, hotel security guards noticed blood stains on the suitcase, and told the driver to take his cab to the police station. That’s where police discovered von Wiese-Mack’s body inside the suitcase, wrapped in a white bed sheet stained with blood.
Hotel security video showed the couple had fled the hotel through a back door after leaving the suitcase in the trunk of the taxi. Mack and Schaefer were tracked down several hours later and arrested.
Police said hotel security cameras recorded Schaefer arguing with von Wiese-Mack the night before, but the motive for the murder is unclear.
Von Wiese Mack was the widow of Chicago musician James Mack, who died in 2006, when he suffered a pulmonary embolism while on vacation in Greece.
Von Wiese-Mack and her daughter had been living in a Gold Coast high rise for the past year or so. Before that, they had lived in Oak Park.
The doorman at her building described von Wiess-Mack as a wonderful mother, who devoted her life to raising her daughter.
Barbara Watkins was still shaking when she spoke to CBS 2 about the woman she came to know as both neighbor and friend.
“It’s just a tragic situation,” Watkins said. “She didn’t deserve this.”
Alex Bailey, a former classmate of Heather’s, says the troubled bond between mother and daughter was widely known.
“She like got into some fights with people, but never anything like this,” Bailey said.
There were multiple run-ins with police when von Wiese-Mack was living in Oak Park. Between January 2004 and June 2013, Oak Park police were called to the home 86 times, mostly for domestic incidents, although police also reported to calls of theft and a missing person, as well as some calls when someone hung up on 911.
After she moved to Chicago, there were more visits from police for domestic incidents, according to security guards at her building.
In addition, Schaefer was arrested and Mack was detained last month at the Conrad Hotel on Rush Street hotel, after an employee called police about a disturbance. Chicago police confirmed Schaefer was charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct and breach of peace. Mack was released without charges.
Schaefer also had a 2012 conviction for simple assault, but was sentenced to court supervision. He had previous drug- and alcohol-related arrests, but charges were dropped in those cases.
Shelia von Wiese-Mack led a fascinating life in which she worked closely with a number of dynamic figures in politics, academia and the arts.
CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports throughout her life, intellectual curiosity drove Shelia Von Wiese-Mack to associations with inventive, creative people.
Even those who only knew her socially, like Chicago jazz great Ramsey Lewis, count her death as a needless loss.
“It’s a tragedy to me knowing her to the extent that I did,” Lewis said. “If someone has differences with anybody, you just leave. I don’t know why it has to come to murder.”
After college, Weise went to work as a researcher for Senator Ted Kennedy.
Later, she worked on marketing projects with Jacqueline Onassis, who was an editor at Doubleday.
When Weise moved to Chicago to pursue a master’s in social work, she landed a job transcribing interviews for Studs Terkel.
Studs, in turn, referred her to novelist Saul Bellow. She studied for ten years under his leadership in a University of Chicago PhD program.
At the university, she met musician James Mack, director of music for Rockefeller Chapel, and a dynamic figure in blues and jazz, who she eventually married.
Friends like Ramsay Lewis say, the two shared an inquisitiveness about everything.
“I think that might have been the attraction in terms of curiosity about what the world’s all about, what the arts are all about,” Lewis said.
James Mack died in 2006, suffering a blood clot of the lung while vacationing in Athens, Greece.