Trials & Litigation

Chicago woman found dead in suitcase in Bali had received $840K in cruise line settlement

A Chicago woman who had received $840,000 in a cruise line settlement was found dead in a suitcase in Bali last week.

The woman, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, was on vacation with her daughter and daughter’s boyfriend when her body was found abandoned in a taxicab trunk. The daughter, 18-year-old Heather Mack, and her 21-year-old boyfriend, Tommy Schaefer, are being held by Indonesian police.

Heather Mack and her mother had a contentious relationship, but it’s not clear if the settlement and a will were a source of some of the problems, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Police in suburban Oak Park, where the family lived before moving to Chicago, had been called to the home 86 times. Von Wiese-Mack had alleged her daughter hit and bit her, but she was reluctant to press charges, the Chicago Tribune reports. Police say mother and daughter quarreled over homework, chores and von Wiese-Mack’s allegations that her daughter stole money and credit cards from her.

Von Wiese-Mack’s late husband, composer James Mack, had died in 2006. His estate consisted of a $150,000 condo and an $1,800 bank account, the Sun-Times says. His will, signed five days before his death, said Mack intended “only to provide for Heather Mack, my child, and for no other children.” Heather Mack was only 10 at the time.

In February 2011 a judge approved a $1.5 million settlement with Royal Caribbean stemming from an injury to James Mack’s foot in a cruise ship pool and his treatment by the ship doctor. After attorney fees, Von Wiese-Mack’s share of the settlement was about $340,000 and $500,000 went to James Mack’s estate. But a judge in June 2011 authorized payment of the $500,000 to von Wiese-Mack as the “sole beneficiary” of her husband’s estate, the Sun-Times says. The story does not explain the reason for the decision.

Hat tip to ISBA Daily Legal News.

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