Debbi Curran and Bill Wiese, the brother and sister of Sheila von Wiese-Mack, talk to reporters after the sentencing of Robert Bibbs. | Stefano Esposito/Sun-Times

Sister, brother of Bali murder victim speak out at sentencing

SHARE Sister, brother of Bali murder victim speak out at sentencing
SHARE Sister, brother of Bali murder victim speak out at sentencing

It was hard enough for Debbi Curran to look at the suitcase — perhaps the most indelible image from her sister’s 2014 murder at a luxury Bali resort.

But then the images of Sheila von Wiese-Mack’s black, blue and bloodied face filled two giant screens inside the federal courtroom Friday, and Curran turned away. She’d never seen them before.

“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Curran said of her day in court, talking after an accessory in her sister’s murder was sentenced to nine years in prison. “Both Bill (Wiese, von Wiese-Mack’s brother) and I did it for Sheila. She’s up in heaven and she can’t speak.”

Though he wasn’t in Bali, Robert Bibbs, 26, acted as a kind of coach, texting suggestions and motivational words to one of the killers, Tommy Schaefer, who plotted the Chicago socialite’s murder with the victim’s daughter, Heather Mack. Schaefer and Mack then stuffed her body in that suitcase.

“It’s horrifying that someone who had every opportunity to step in, prevent a violent murder, in fact did nothing of the kind,” said U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer as she handed down the sentence.

Bibbs pleaded guilty in December to conspiracy to commit the foreign murder of a U.S. national. When he entered his plea, Bibbs, who is Schaefer’s cousin, described a “situation” in 2014 with Mack, who was pregnant with Schaefer’s child but was being encouraged by her mother to “kill the kid.” Bibbs said those actions drove Mack to want to get rid of her mother.

In fact, Schaefer told Bibbs that Mack had offered him $50,000 to kill her mother, prosecutors say. And when Mack visited Bibbs’ home in summer 2014, authorities said Mack told Bibbs she wished her mother was dead and asked him if he knew someone she could pay to do the job.

Meanwhile, Schaefer thought he could make up to $11 million off von Wiese-Mack’s murder, through Mack’s inheritance. Bibbs also thought he would get a cut, prosecutors say.

The feds have said Mack and her mother arrived for a vacation in Bali on Aug. 4, 2014. Bibbs told the feds he knew Mack wanted to try to kill her mother there.

Authorities have said Schaefer arrived on the island a few days later, on Aug. 12. Mack allegedly told him in a text message they should wait until her mother “passes back out” before trying to kill her.

While waiting, Schaefer texted Bibbs and said an earlier attempt by Mack to kill her mother by overdose had failed. Bibbs suggested Schaefer try to drown her in the ocean or “go sit on her face wit a pillow then.” When Bibbs asked Schaefer by text, “What would u do?” Bibbs replied, “If it’s no cameras then,” followed by an emoji of a hand indicating “OK.”

Eventually, authorities say Schaefer texted Bibbs: “This is for you n-a. And the fam. One time. Here I go. Pray for me cuz.” Bibbs replied, “Done. It’s go time.”

Mack and Schaefer were eventually convicted in Indonesia. Schaefer, 23, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for beating von Wiese-Mack to death. Mack, 21, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for helping.

Neither Curran nor Weise attended the hearings in Indonesia. Curran’s voice shook throughout Friday as she spoke in court of her love for sister — “my best friend” — and of the terrible image of her sister’s half-naked body spilling out of that suitcase.

Robert Bibbs enters a court hearing in December 2016. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

Robert Bibbs enters the federal courthouse last year. | James Foster/Sun-Times file photo

“This will haunt me for the rest of my life,” she said. “How can any human being do that to someone else — especially your own mother, who gave birth to you?”

Curran called Bibbs “demented,” as though, to him, her sister’s death “meant nothing. She had been deleted.”

Bibbs apologized and said he accepts “full responsibility for my part.’

“I was lost as a man, I was depressed,” he said. “I was drinking. I was suffering a number of significant problems and it made me not see clearly.”

After Bibbs was led away, Curran, from St. Louis, said life without her sister is a “living nightmare.” Von Wiese-Mack’s brother said there are constant reminders of the case — including internet stories, often featuring Mack cradling the baby she gave birth to in prison.

“I don’t fully understand how any mother could keep their baby in prison for two years. Any loving mother would want the best for their child,” Wiese said, noting the child, Stella, is now being cared for by a family outside of the prison.

Asked about her hopes for Bibbs, Curran said: “I hope he uses his time to take classes, do some work and get out and lead a productive life. He has the potential of doing that if he chooses to.”

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