Indonesian police investigating the death of a Chicago woman whose body was found stuffed in a suitcase say the woman’s daughter told them her boyfriend killed her mother after she used a racial slur against him.
Police also said a surveillance camera video from the Bali hotel where the three stayed suggests that Sheila von Wiese-Mack, the 62-year-old victim, was attacked with an iron grip of a fruit bowl.
Heather Mack, 18, and her boyfriend Tommy Schaefer, 21, are being held as suspects in the killing of von Wiese-Mack but have not been formally charged.
Capt. Nengah Sadiarta, police detective chief for Denpasar, Bali’s capital, said Thursday that Mack told police that Schaefer became angry when von Wiese-Mack called him the N-word, and killed her while Mack watched in von Wiese-Mack’s hotel room.
Schaefer is black, as was Mack’s father, James L. Mack, a highly regarded jazz and classical composer who died in 2006. Sadiarta said Mack told them that when Schaefer brought up her late husband’s race, von-Weise-Mack, who was white, used the N-word again, but added that James Mack was also rich.
The badly beaten body of von Wiese-Mack, 62, was found stuffed in a suitcase inside the trunk of a taxi at the St. Regis Bali Resort in August.
Sadiarta said police filed their dossiers at the Denpasar prosecutor’s office on Monday but are continuing to investigate.
Raja Nasution, an Indonesian lawyer for Mack, said he and her U.S. lawyer accompanied her during questioning. He confirmed the police account of the racial slur being used, but added that Mack did not specifically say she saw Schaefer kill her mother.
“She did not mention murder, but she told investigators that Tommy did the beating,” Nasution said. “Our client did not mention that the beating was intended to kill her mother or not. She just confessed to the police that Tommy beat her mother.”
Nasution also said Mack told police she did not kill von Wiese-Mack or help stuff her body into the suitcase.
Haposan Sihombing, a lawyer who has represented Schaefer, said Friday that he could not comment because Schaefer replaced him a day earlier. He refused to give the name of Schaefer’s new lawyer.
Sihombing, however, denied that Schaefer had confessed to killing von Wiese-Mack, as Denpasar’s police chief, Col. Djoko Hari Utomo, said last month. Utomo has since said he intended to say that Mack told police that Schaefer was responsible.
Sadiarta said the hotel’s surveillance camera video shows that Schaefer took a piece of iron from his room and hid it under his shirt as he went to von Wiese-Mack’s room. He said the iron appeared to be the grip of a fruit bowl provided by the hotel in his room, and investigators found bits of iron matching the piece in the victim’s wound.
The captain said the surveillance video shows that no one but Mack and Schaefer went in and out of von Wiese-Mack’s room in the hours surrounding her death. He said Mack was seen in the video bringing a cart to von Wiese-Mack’s room to transport the suitcase that contained her mother’s body.
Police have said that Mack and Schaefer hired a taxi, placed the suitcase in its trunk and disappeared. Hotel staff noticed spots of blood on the suitcase and told the driver to go to a police station, where officers opened the suitcase and discovered the body.
Sadiarta also said police found a jacket belonging to Schaefer with blood spots when police caught him at another Bali hotel. Lab results showed that the blood matched von Wiese-Mack’s blood.