This text was written for Ryan; the story is how he told it to me. Haven’t managed to verify all information.Yet 🙂
Today i managed to get into the Kerobokan prison, yes…that infamous Hotel K in Bali, and meet Heather.

Some of you might recognize her and her story. She was accused of murder 4 years ago. For killing her mother.

Upon entry of course they took my phone. So, no pictures. Sorry, guys.

The story has many sides and contradictory information and i will not get into details about who, what, where and when. One can find that online.

This is what she told me, this morning.

Heather, a 22 years old girl, is from Chicago. She was on holiday with her mother and boyfriend in Bali. One night, being drunk, her boyfriend got into a fight with her mother.

The fight went haywire and he hit her with a fruit bowl. Twice. The blow was strong so it broke the mother’s nose, causing her death by asphyxiation due to a blood clot.

Planned or unplanned, in the heat of the moment, Heather decided to ran with her boyfriend..and the dead body of her mother. They put her in a suitcase. When asked why? Heather’s answer: “I had the feeling that she will wake up”. She wouldn’t want to get into details about how she was caught, but what I understood is that they were reported by a local taxi driver. They were caught 11 hours after the crime took place.

After a month long trial, both her and her boyfriend were charged with murder. She was sentenced to 10 years. Her boyfriend 18 years.

Heather was 18 at the time of her arrest. She was also pregnant. Later on she gave birth to a baby girl that she was allowed to keep with her for the first 2 years.Last year the child, Stella, was sent to live here, in Bali, with an Australian friend.

Being pregnant, she was put in a office, when first arrested, kept out of general population. The guards idea was to keep the child in an as healthy environment as possible, away from noise, heat or all the cigarette smoke. To her surprise, and mine as well, they were so humane to her and the child.

For example, one day the fan in her cell broke and the guards brought in a new one for the baby.

Bad news spread out fast. Everywhere…

So, when it comes to US authorities, the FBI tried to bring her back to the USA and charge her with murder and give her life in prison for killing an US citizen. They knew that she would get off light in Indonesia. Needless to say ..she was very happy that Indonesia refused to extradite her.

In Indonesia murder is normally only a 5 year sentence, nothing really compared to getting caught with a joint though. I was told by her that someone got 25 years for three joints. But, since her case was so big in the media the courts imposed a longer sentence with the possibility of serving only 70% of her time.

Obviously, i asked about the press and why she wasn’t interviewed so far. The reason was as expected – media went crazy over the story. Personally, i knew nothing about it.

Sneak Peek inside

Again, I was in the women section. It’s a brand new wing of the prison. Only two weeks old. Thus everything was clean and not as expected due to the images you get from all the documentaries and books about the Indonesian prisons.

Before she was in mixed area and lived in a cell with 17 other women. All inmates being locked up together, in the same wing, the cells were so packed that people had to sleep standing up.

If you can ignore those details, we could say that she and the other inmates have a relatively easy life, for a prison. Or it could be; as long as you have money.

Everything there is dictated by bribery. So yes, usually people get inside without money, but in some cases they do have enough. Because there you need to buy everything, from the mattress on your bed, to your daily food. Hence the reason for which there are so many missionaries visiting them.

Every month they have to pay a rent of 25 USD, every 2 weeks – $7 for electricity. Water is not included… When I asked about how she manages with the cash, Heather said she gets money from a friend.

Having money there is kind of everything; pay the guards and you can have a day at the beach or order Go-Jek (delivery food). Or simply have your own mobile phone with a decent internet connection.

The prison schedule it’s pretty relaxed to what i was expecting. She is allowed to sleep in and have time of her own. At 6 in the evening, though, it’s the general lock down.The moment when everybody is confide to their cells. She likes it like this; that is the moment of the day when she has time to talk on the phone and reach out to the outer world. And yes, it is the time of day when people can peacefully do their drugs. Well, the guards do go away for the rest of the day.

Drugs inside, never outside.

When asked about the drugs around the prison, let’s say it’s safer to use them inside. Just for the reason that you are already in. They grow their own supply of marijuana and ‘shrooms and they do have their own kitchen for cocaine. Meth is the drug of choice though.

You would imagine that doping yourself would be an issue; considering the fact that they have regular drug tests. Well it is, as long as you are on appeal. If they find you positive, you can say goodbye to any chance of lowering your sentence. If you are not, no one will care about what you smoke or take.

Heather has reduced her sentence with 15 months. Good behavior, she says, and no drug use.

Other inmates?

Two weeks ago a guard was arrested for trying to sneak in 1000 ecstasy pills. Heather told me he will be sentenced to death. He tried to make his life easier by turning in the inmate he was supposed to give them. But, as if this would come by a surprise by now, the inmate gave a “little bit of money” and got free of any charges.

A Chinese man was caught with one ton of meth. He is also on death row.

A grandma from UK was accused of smuggling 10 pounds of cocaine in Bali and she was sentenced to death. Her execution, technically is due in 6 months. But no one knows for sure. Sadly, she is known as the crazy lady inside the women section.

Overall it seems to be a more corrupted system than i thought; where you can do 1 year in prison for a truck of drugs or murder, but 20+ years or execution for a spliff. Every court decision is relative and can be changed afterward. Through legal or illegal ways.
This subject came up so many times that i had to ask…

But being on death row doesn’t mean that you actually know when and if they will actually execute you. You will find out with 72h prior to your execution There are cases of people, that have been for more than 10 years sentenced to death, still waiting (is that even fair to say?) for the punishment to be carried out. Whilst for some it was a matter of months. In general, locals are the first to get the bullet.

Probably it has something to do with citizenship and with Indonesian authorities statement of being “a strong advocate against the death penalty for its citizens abroad”. Some sort of macabre way of “i spare yours, you spare mine”, that doesn’t always work, considering the statistics.

I was convinced that firing squad executions are a thing of the past. Something that always reminded me about WWII. Not here. Not in Indonesia.

Every now and then, the local authorities roundup groups of death row inmates and take them to Nusa Kambangan. The penal island. Or the prison island. There they will face a firing squad of 12 rifles, from which only 3 have live ammunition. This way the shooters will not know if they actually took the killing shot or not. A pretty good way for an executioner to get rid of his guilt.

None of us was comfortable with this kind of discussion. Not even someone who killed their parents. Go figure.


She has now been locked up for 4 years. She doesn’t regret killing her mother. “It is what it is. I had to do it”. She wouldn’t give me a reason why.

Maybe indeed Heather found out that her mother killed her father; or maybe, the mother started the fight asking Heather to have an abortion and things escalated. Or maybe, just maybe her aunt was right and she did it for money. Only she and her boyfriend know what happened there and why everything went so wrong.

She will be released at 25 years old. She has a full life ahead of her. So, yes, she is looking up to her future plans. Says she doesn’t want to go to back to US. Remaining in Bali with her child that now speaks 3 different languages seems the best option for her.

PS: I still have the feeling that she, at times, lied. I will try to go visit her again, maybe ask different question. I’m curious about her father 🙂

PPS: I will follow up the story soon.


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