Tommy Schaefer with Heather Mack | Courtesy of Instagram

Tommy Schaefer, currently serving an 18-year prison sentence in Bali for the murder of Sheila von Wiese, could be released from Indonesian custody and return to the United States as early as spring of 2026.

In a recent interview with Australian journalist Dave Smith on the website, Schaefer acknowledged his part in von Wiese’s brutal murder in 2014, but called his federal indictment for conspiracy to murder von Wiese “vengeful.” He also reiterated his contention that he never meant to kill her until a heated argument took place in her hotel room.

Schaefer said von Wiese’s brother and sister, Bill Wiese and Debbi Curran, had “unsettled business” regarding their sister’s murder, calling it “an itch to scratch.”

“That is why they pushed so hard with the FBI to have [von Wiese’s daughter Heather Mack] charged with conspiracy in the U.S.,” he said.

Heather Mack is in federal custody, having recently pleaded guilty to conspiring to kill her mother; her sentencing is set for Dec. 18. Bibbs is serving a 9-year prison sentence for his part in the conspiracy.

Schaefer’s claim he had no intention of harming von Wiese is rebutted by text evidence between him, his former girlfriend, Mack, and his cousin, Robert Bibbs, showing clear intent to kill von Wiese for weeks before the murder, right up to the moment he entered her hotel room.

Prosecutors allege that, rather than being killed during an argument, von Wiese was viciously ambushed by Schaefer and Mack as she lay in her bed.

Texts between Mack and Schaefer just before 9 a.m. contradict any suggestion of a lack of intent. Mack texted Schaefer, “Yeah she’s still turned away G don’t hit her … Are you sure … What if she doesnt (knock out)”

Schaefer texted back: “Let me just creep up … And wack her … Once I do it (our story will be) She was drunk slipped and fell”

Mack texted: “Okay g … Okay just knock her out … It’ll be so much easier … Is the door closed[?]”

Schaefer did his best to paint himself as a victim of Mack’s scheming, telling Smith, “slowly and surely then she started convincing me how rich we’d be if her mother died and telling me that if she was rich, I’d be rich too,” Schaefer said. “So, I stopped trying to convince her not to do it and even played along.”

But again, a daunting array of texts and other evidence strongly indicates Schaefer was a willing participant in the conspiracy, and relished the prospect of a rich payoff for killing von Wiese.

Elliott Jacobsen, an old friend of von Wiese who remains close to her brother and sister, called Schaefer “an intricate part of the murder,” and expressed disdain at his allegations. “I would not rely on Tommy as an authority,” he said. “He’s still looking for an avenue that absolves him of guilt.”

Jacobsen also scoffed at the idea that von Wiese’s family had anything to do with Mack or Schaefer’s legal troubles, saying, “Bill and Debbi had nothing to do with [Heather] being tried. Bill and Debbi did not arrest, did not try and did not convict Heather.”

As he has done before, Schaefer said he has experienced personal growth that mitigates against further punishment, telling Smith, “I feel the indictment is vengeful because of the man I have become.” God, he said, “has made me sharp and stable.”

But others say Schaefer is anything but stable. Veteran journalist Andrea Dixon has traveled the world researching a book on the Bali murder and Mack, Schaefer and von Wiese. She has visited Kerobokan Prison numerous times, and while Schaefer has repeatedly refused to speak with her, other inmates have spoken with her about Schaefer. Those inmates, she said, “sing a similar tune.”

“Tommy is delusional. He thinks he is a prophet of God one minute and the next minute he is deeply paranoid and hides in his cell,” Dixon said. Schaefer’s fellow inmates also told Dixon that, in recent months, he appears to have come into money.

“During a visit to the prison a few months ago, I was told that Tommy is wearing new clothes and is spending money on food and other items,” Dixon said. “He previously lived very modestly with help coming from charities and from his mother, Kia Walker.” She added, “Other prisoners believe he might have a woman in his life.”

Schaefer likely has less than three years remaining to enjoy the relative freedom of prison life on Bali to which he has grown accustomed. The Indonesian government routinely issues annual sentence “remissions” to most prisoners for good behavior. They usually are granted on Indonesian Independence Day in August. Additional remissions can be granted on other significant days, such as the end of the observance of Ramadan.

Smith noted, “Schaefer has already had four years and two months shaved off his sentence, and in August he will receive another six-month reduction.” With effectively 18 months off his sentence annually, Schaefer can expect release as early as April of 2026, and possibly earlier.

Schaefer characterized his looming U.S. prosecution as “a case of David versus Goliath,” and reiterated his allegation that “revenge” is the primary motive for his prosecution and the prospect of decades more imprisonment in the U.S.

“Revenge,” he told Smith. “That is for the Lord.” And his return to the U.S. may well feel like a sort of revenge to him; Chicago’s Metropolitan Correctional Center, where he will be held awaiting trial, has no large sunny courtyard to wander, and in fact has no direct sunlight.

Jacobsen insisted it is Schaefer’s guilt, not a desire for revenge, that will be the primary motivation in his prosecution. He also expressed frustration at attempts by defense attorneys to use von Wiese’s alleged personal shortcomings as a defense for those who murdered her.

“Everyone’s trying to find something about Sheila that serves as a defense for a capital crime,” Jacobsen said. “[Schaefer’s] lawyer won’t be able to provide a defense because there is no defense.”

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